That's the question people should ask when reading this article about the Corps of Engineers paying no attention to reports indicating that the levee system base on a fast Catagory 3 storm was inadquate.
Weather data showing the need to raise the height of levees to defend New Orleans against stronger hurricanes was not incorporated in Army Corps of Engineers designs, even though the agency was informed of the new calculations as early as 1972, government records show.Their excuse was that Congress did mandate that higher storm-surge levels should be designed for. Now, I'm no expert on the mandate of the Corps of Engineers, but shouldn't these reports have raised red flags more work needed to be done? It appears not.
New Orleans District engineers now involved in reassessing the area's hurricane protection system said the lack of changes in the past probably can be traced the corps' legal restriction to building only what Congress authorizes.But an LSU engineer says that Congress has no such such limitation on the Corps.
Ivor van Heerden, assistant director of the LSU Hurricane Center and a frequent critic of the corps, said the authorization issue should not have prevented the corps from changing design specifications based on updated information.
"The legislation never mentions a standard project hurricane. That was something the engineers came up with to define the most severe threat," he said. "There is no reason they could not have changed."
In 1965, Congress authorized the corps to develop a system to protect the New Orleans area from "the most severe meteorological conditions that are considered reasonably characteristic of the region," giving birth to the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project.
So it looks like the Corps had a set of perameters that it felt comfortable with and simply moved-on. Like any other government entity, bureaucratic inertia simply took-over and no one had the initiative to make the Corps change it's ways. In the meantime, the Corps reassured the citizens of south Louisiana that all was safe regardless of the fact they didn't know what they were keeping us safe from.
Sointenly not Katrina.