Posts Tagged: Hurricane Katrina

Army Corps v. California trees

Six years and thousands of miles away from the poorly designed flood walls and levees whose post-Katrina failure inundated New Orleans, environmental groups in California have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent what they contend is an unproven, costly and potentially damaging flood protection strategy ordered by US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps, under scrutiny after a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe, decreed in 2007 that local levee districts would in the future lose guarantees of federal aid and loans unless all trees and shrubs were removed from levees under its nominal jurisdiction around the nation. (more…)

A Hurricane Of Class Action Lawsuits

The federal government could be liable up to an unbelievable $500 billion, reports the New York Times’ Campbell Robertson, after Federal Judge Stanwood R. Duval ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers did not maintain a navigation channel, leading to Hurricane Katrina flooding. The ruling is in response to a class action lawsuit by New Orleans residents, with six plaintiffs receiving money for now, while “tens of thousands of other property owners could now try to join class-action lawsuits against the government under the same legal reasoning.”

This may mark the first time the federal government has ever been held legally liable for incompetence. Unfortunately unprecedented legal terrain isn’t the only problem facing the residents of New Orleans. Times’ Michael Grunwald has impressively chronicled that the Army Corps of Engineers still hasn’t made New Orleans safe, even after Katrina (he won Understanding Government’s Preventive Journalism award for this reporting). The federal government has neither fully dealt with the consequences of Katrina — nor come up with a plan to prevent another disaster.


Steve Vogel of the Washington Post writes up a Government Accountability Office report on FEMA’s reform efforts. The agency was told to overhaul its emergency preparedness efforts after the Hurricane Katrina super-debacle and in many respects they have. But the problem is that FEMA, under the Department of Homeland Security, needs to order other federal agencies, and also state and local governments, about what to do when there’s a hurricane or violent attack.

These problems, I think, bolster the case that FEMA needs to be an independent agency as it was before the 2003 creation of DHS. Just as the Treasury Dept. got defined powers to act in the midst of a financial crisis, FEMA needs to have unambiguous powers to make orders (i.e. call in the national guard, give local governments evacuation plans) for the next disaster.-MB


FEMA had previously told Hurricane Katrina victims still living in government trailers that they would have to leave those trailers by the end of May. But that’s no longer the case, reports the New York Times’ Shaila Dewan: many of the 3,446 trailers still in use can be bought by their occupants from the government for as little as $5. And Housing and Urban Development has promised priority for permanent housing vouchers to residents of these trailers.

The most important question if the Obama administration can better work with state and local government than the Bush administration did — and see these housing plans through. But what’s being proposed now is more humane than anything Bush’s FEMA rolled out.-MB