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Thoughts About Why The Levees Failed  
User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8508 posts, RR: 12
Posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1300 times:

The levees that have protected New Orleans since time began were first erected in 1718. They have been upgraded at various times since erection. The Army Corps of Engineers has been the ones responsible for maintaining and upgrading them, which has been a battle, since Carter, Clinton, and Bush the Younger all tried to cut their funding.

Let's review a little bit about the Corps, like all government, and what it's motivations are to do a good job:

1). They are not real owners
2). There are no profits or losses at stake
3). They don't have to answer to risk-obsessed insurance companies, who insist on premiums matching even the most remote contingencies

Thus, they go about their business, in the infamous "it's good enough for government work" modus operandi. This is nothing personal against anyone who works for the Corps, but it's endemic to all government. Would you rather fly on a capitalists' Boeing or Airbus, or a state-owned Russian-built aircraft? This happens at all levels of every government, regardless of intent or official statements.

Hurricane Katrina did not directly cause the flooding of New Orleans. Even the massive hurricane didn't cause that much flooding. The failures of the levees, which were expected by not just a few people, is the cause. Since the Army Corps of Engineers cares for them, that makes them, and the federal government, responsible. Not only that, but roads and bridges built by the government also failed, which made repairing the levees more difficult.

The Army Corps of Engineers had no plan whatsoever to deal with levee failures of this magnitude. Insurance companies, which have to turn a profit, make it their business to discover what the most extreme risks of any insured activity or event are, and yet the Corps...?

We hear over and over again about the environmental trouble that has been brewing for years at the mouth of the Mississippi River, with sediment that should've been deposited to protect the coastal waters no longer deposited. Guess who has management of the river? The federal government has control over the entire Mississippi, of course.


Levees and pumps and disaster management can be privatized, and we'll be better off for it. Fewer people will die, fewer will be made homeless, and fewer will see their lives forever changed by government incompetence.



A chilling National Geographic feature about the possibility of exactly what has happened, postulated by LSU researcher and retired coast engineer (after 30 years) Joe Suhayda.

http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/n...tml?fs=www7.nationalgeographic.com

[Edited 2005-09-03 03:44:24]

18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineME AVN FAN From Switzerland, joined May 2002, 13920 posts, RR: 25
Reply 1, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1285 times:

Such levees fail due to technical problems, lack of surveillance, structual faults, unforeseen developments, changes in usage and longterm-damages to the underground. The emphasis should be given to seriously check up the factual problems and to "cure" whatever needs to be cured, but there should N O T be a witch-hunt. There quite recently was a case where a levee along an important canal in Switzerland began to crack in at least one place just on top, allowing a little stream to get out. It is a levee which since 1999 is to be repaired, but the work has not yet been done. People there were lucky this time. The task in NO for those in charge will be to check up ALL the levees in question.

User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1282 times:

Quoting MD-90 (Thread starter):
The levees that have protected New Orleans since time began were first erected in 1718. They have been upgraded at various times since erection. The Army Corps of Engineers has been the ones responsible for maintaining and upgrading them, which has been a battle, since Carter, Clinton, and Bush the Younger all tried to cut their funding.

I don't think they just "tried" to cut their budget, in most cases they were successful.

Quoting MD-90 (Thread starter):
Hurricane Katrina did not directly cause the flooding of New Orleans. Even the massive hurricane didn't cause that much flooding. The failures of the levees, which were expected by not just a few people, is the cause. Since the Army Corps of Engineers cares for them, that makes them, and the federal government, responsible. Not only that, but roads and bridges built by the government also failed, which made repairing the levees more difficult.

The issue of the roads failing is largely irrelevant to why the levees failed in the first place. That is the critical element to focus on.

Quoting MD-90 (Thread starter):
The Army Corps of Engineers had no plan whatsoever to deal with levee failures of this magnitude.

Sure they did. It required funding that was denied over the last 35 years of failed political leadership at the state and federal level.

Quoting MD-90 (Thread starter):
Levees and pumps and disaster management can be privatized, and we'll be better off for it. Fewer people will die, fewer will be made homeless, and fewer will see their lives forever changed by government incompetence.

Not necessarily. You are ignoring the real cause of the levee failure - we channelized a river that historically flooded the plain that is southeastern Louisiana, depositing new silt. Once we did that, the land surrounding the channelized river started to subside. This erosion of Louisiana continues unabated. You can turn over levee management to the best private enterprise on the planet, and the end result is that the levees will have to be built higher and higher and higher....


User currently offlineUSAIRWAYS321 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 1848 posts, RR: 9
Reply 3, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1277 times:

They failed because they were designed and constructed to withstand the forces of a Category 3 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 5. Sadly enough, it's pretty simple.

User currently offlineTPASXM787 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 1730 posts, RR: 19
Reply 4, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1275 times:

Quoting USAIRWAYS321 (Reply 4):
They failed because they were designed and constructed to withstand the forces of a Category 3 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 5. Sadly enough, it's pretty simple

 checkmark 



This is the Last Stop.
User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8508 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1273 times:

Quoting ME AVN FAN (Reply 1):
Such levees fail due to technical problems, lack of surveillance, structual faults, unforeseen developments, changes in usage and longterm-damages to the underground.

Agreed.

Now who's going to be better at managing those problems?

Government, or private enterprise that produced such successful companies as Wal-Mart, GE, Boeing, Southwest, and Coca-Cola?

One has to take by force, and the other provides goods and services that you actually want, and voluntarily pay for. It's no wonder that government screws things up as it does.


User currently offlineDL021 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 11447 posts, RR: 75
Reply 6, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1272 times:

The levees failed because we tried to overpower Mother Nature and as we all know....


.........it isn't nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Floods are nigh impossible to prevent, and this was bound to happen.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that to rebuild the lost areas, keeping in mind that the area is sinking slowly anyway, would be foolish. We need to rebuild smart where it'll be safest from potential floods.



Is my Pan Am ticket to the moon still good?
User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 1261 times:

Quoting DL021 (Reply 7):
.........it isn't nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Replacing the levees will be a MAJOR mistake... if it's under water now, it needs to be filled in and raised.


User currently offlineBobster2 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 1257 times:

The World Trade Center was built by the government, which is why they were not required to comply with building codes. They used the cheapest and easiest building methods, including spray-on fireproofing that fell off the steel beams.

User currently offlineUSAIRWAYS321 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 1848 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 1244 times:

Quoting Bobster2 (Reply 9):
The World Trade Center was built by the government, which is why they were not required to comply with building codes. They used the cheapest and easiest building methods, including spray-on fireproofing that fell off the steel beams.

I may be wrong, but didn't the spray-on fireproofing meet the codes that existed at the time?


User currently offlineBobster2 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (9 years 3 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 1232 times:

Quoting USAIRWAYS321 (Reply 10):
I may be wrong, but didn't the spray-on fireproofing meet the codes that existed at the time?

Their stated objective was to meet or exceed building codes, but they were not subject to any external reviews or inspections and it's clear that a lot of the work was sloppy. They also failed to replace fireproofing that fell off during construction or fell off as a result of the normal back and forth swaying of the buildings, especially on the upper floors.


User currently offlineBobster2 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 1204 times:

Getting back to the original subject, John Tierney has a great Op-Ed column in the NY Times today and he makes points similar what MD-90 said. Listen to this:

"But as we've learned this week, few people seem to care passionately about maintaining levees or preparing for a predictable flood. They've left that to Washington, which promised to hold back the waters and absolved coastal dwellers from worrying about hurricanes."

and later: "New Orleans and other coastal cities will never be safe if they go on relying on Washington for protection. Members of Congress will always have higher priorities than paying for levees in someone else's state."

and: "You and others along the coast have to buy flood insurance the same way we all buy fire insurance - from private companies that have more at stake than do Washington bureaucrats."

Complete column (registration required):
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/03/opinion/03tierney.html


User currently offlineStevenUhl777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 1199 times:

Quoting Halls120 (Reply 3):
You are ignoring the real cause of the levee failure - we channelized a river that historically flooded the plain that is southeastern Louisiana, depositing new silt. Once we did that, the land surrounding the channelized river started to subside. This erosion of Louisiana continues unabated. You can turn over levee management to the best private enterprise on the planet, and the end result is that the levees will have to be built higher and higher and higher....

I was talking to my friend who has family in the Hattiesburg, MS area. He hasn't reached them yet since the hurricane made landfall on Monday, but he thinks they're ok. Anyway, he told me that before the levees were built, the wetlands would help ease the flooding in that area, and when the levees were built, it prevented the wetlands from doing this.


User currently offlineMrChips From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 938 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 1188 times:

Quoting MD-90 (Thread starter):
Levees and pumps and disaster management can be privatized, and we'll be better off for it. Fewer people will die, fewer will be made homeless, and fewer will see their lives forever changed by government incompetence.

Unfortunately, privatising public works projects such as this often causes more damage than if they remained government controlled. Let's take a look at how this kind of thing works:

You see, the government, despite what reservations you might have, knows when it's time to cut loose from a project due to cost (other factors, mainly political embarassment, prevent them from doing this most of the time) - and this is exactly when they decide to privatise stuff - when they are no longer willing to foot the bill to upgrade or repair the project, or that "political embarassment" factor comes into play.

Sooner or later, some company will come along and snap this stuff up, only to find they've purchased a complete lemon, so to speak. The result of this is that they end up footing the bill for upgrades and repairs, which is very well and fine, until they bill the government for it, who often would reply that the government is unwilling to compensate the company for their expenses. The company is then forced to find a way to charge user fees to the public, a wholly uncomfortable situation for the company, and one that causes embarassment for the government (like everyone else, the government wants job security too, even though they don't deserve it). Now, for something like utilities or highways it is easy to charge user fees to the public, but for something like levees? You would have a hard sell to your "customers" regarding the implementaton of fees or any other kind of charge.

As for privatising disaster response, I challenge you to find a way to make money on such a thing. The limiting factor to consider is the required scale of a nationwide corporation responsible for disaster relief when you factor in the worst case scenario, which the government would force this hypothetical company to prepare for. You would have such a huge amount of assets idle for so long (even if you found a way to lease them to other users or to the government) that the possibility of making money would be the same as that of a snowball's survival in hell. Could you break disaster response into regions, and allow for many small players competing against each other? Sure, but it would be even more inefficient, as you would require even more resources and assets to do the same job, plus difficulty coordinating for a national-level emergency.



Time...to un-pimp...ze auto!
User currently offlineAlessandro From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 1182 times:

MD-90, if I was in-charge I would only employ people who lived in the grace of
the walls, so if it failed they would be responsible.
Like the Chinese forced the leadership of their airlines, to fly on Y2k.


User currently offlineME AVN FAN From Switzerland, joined May 2002, 13920 posts, RR: 25
Reply 15, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 1155 times:

Quoting MD-90 (Reply 5):
who's going to be better at managing those problems?

I am in favour of private companies. But the government has to arrange the finance. In case of New Orleans, the place in future should, as do many European and Arab resorts, charge a tourist charge through hotels and restaurants and entertainment places. If all such places have to hand-over 7% of the cash-income, then there will be sufficient finance to secure what needs to be secured.


User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8508 posts, RR: 12
Reply 16, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 1118 times:

The people that knew "the way things were" are no mostly dead, but there used to be an incredible system of private charities in this country. Thankfully, despite our ruinous tax rates, there is still some private charity that exists, despite the government.

Read about Petal, Mississippi:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/roberts-cm1.html

Perhaps it was my brother, who lost his house in the storm, but who also got a check from State Farm Insurance the next day. Perhaps it was the Southern Baptist Association, which was in town within 48 hours handing out rations of food. Or, perhaps it was the fact that on Thursday, he still had not seen a single FEMA worker. To make matters worse, relief supplies were stranded in truck stops dozens of miles away, not because the roads were covered with trees (which did make a difference during the first 24 hours), but because government workers failed to tell drivers where to deliver them. In one case, trucks of ice sat in Meridian, Mississippi for three days because drivers could not find officials who would tell them what to do. I bet the good folks at State Farm could give them the right information. To make matters worse, police in Mississippi, careful to avoid the human catastrophe developing in New Orleans, continue to vigorously enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew. When generators finally arrive to power the pumps, gas stations are shut down with the setting of the sun. In one case, motorists, many of whom had lined up hours or even days before, were turned away by aggressive policemen wanting to get a head start on enforcing the curfew.


User currently offlineCaptOveur From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 1085 times:

Quoting MD-90 (Reply 16):
Read about Petal, Mississippi:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/roberts-cm1.html

Got anything from a credible source?


User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (9 years 3 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 1068 times:

Quoting CaptOveur (Reply 17):

Got anything from a credible source?

You are such the omptimist aren't you?


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