The Levees - A little history
The location of New Orleans was ideal for portage because traders could access the Mississippi from the gulf via Lake Pontchartrain, avoiding the treacherous lower 100 mi (160 km) of the river. In the late 1800s Corps engineers began constructing levees of a more permanent type along the riverís channel and cleared sunken ships, dead trees, and other detritus from its outlet to the gulf. With the levees in place, the lowlands beyond the river did not flood as often, and people began building homes in areas once reserved for alligators, mosquitoes, and yellow fever.
In the spring of 1927, the Mississippi River flooded in a way that had never been recorded before. Raging waters tore through levees in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, killing at least 1,000 people and inundating 1 million homes. It was the mighty riverís last hurrah. Soon thereafter, Congress directed Corps engineers to straighten the river in places, add floodgates in others, and increase the height of its levees all the way from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to the gulf. At the same time, New Orleans began developing what has become the most sophisticated drainage network in the United States. Today almost 200 mi (320 km) of canals lead to 22 pumping stations located in the low points of the city. The stations are able to pump 35 billion gal (132.5 million m3) of water per day from the city into the surrounding lakes. They could fill the Superdome stadium, the home of the New Orleans Saints football team, to capacity in 35 minutes.
The city is now well protected from floodwaters from the Mississippi. Storm surge from hurricanes, however, is another matter.
The article at the link above about is a very important one that will help us all to understand what happened in New Orleans. It was written in June 2003 in Civil Engineering Magazine. In essence Hurricane Katrina was the catalyst for a disaster waiting to happen. No one in the local, state or federal government in positions of authority has the right to claim ignorance. The following are links to sites that give some of the 'political' history:
DAILY BRIEFING September 1, 2005
Ex-Army Corps officials say budget cuts imperiled flood mitigation efforts
By Jason Vest and Justin Rood
As levees burst and floods continued to spread across areas hit by Hurricane Katrina yesterday, a former chief of the Army Corps of Engineers disparaged senior White House officials for "not understanding" that key elements of the region's infrastructure needed repair and rebuilding.
Mike Parker, the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers, was forced to resign in 2002 over budget disagreements with the White House. He clashed with Mitch Daniels, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, which sets the administration's annual budget goals.
Published: August 31, 2005 9:00 PM ET
PHILADELPHIAEven though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until it's level with the massive lake.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."
Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
This is at least one man's opinion:
I don't know who was in charge of the particular levees that broke...from what I've read it could have been one of many agencies...federal, state or local. I do know that in my community, we cannot put sand on our local beach without the Army Corps of Engineer's approval.
It seems from the 2003 report that everybody knew or should have known that these levees would break...why did it take so long to shore them up?
Our awareness of some "simple" basic techniques (repetition, association, composition, omission, diversion, confusion) helps us to understand rhetoric better.