The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Flooding of New Orleans Could Have Been Prevented

Sep 12, 2005

Bush tried to say there was no way to predict a storm like Katrina, or the impact it would have on the levee system of New Orleans.

He lies. This was the most thoroughly predicted natural disaster in our history.

The current system of levees was built in 1970. Even then, scientists from Louisiana State University and the Army Corps of Engineers warned that it would withstand only a Category 3 hurricane, and that much more was needed to truly protect New Orleans. After all, if hurricanes go up through Category 5, why build levees to withstand only Category 3 storms? They called over and over for better levees to be built. Administration after administration ignored them.

Ever since then, the situation of New Orleans had become even more precarious–and they knew it. Again, scientists came out with the warnings: because of the oil drilling off the coast, New Orleans was sinking even further, and the levee system now would not even withstand a direct hit by a Category 2 hurricane.

In addition, it was well known that the marshes and barrier islands in the South of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were eroding. It was well known that this meant fewer and fewer natural barriers that used to absorb a hurricane’s impact.

Many things were proposed that could easily have been implemented–if the money had been granted for the project. The levees could have been built up to withstand a Category 5 storm. They could have been built with floodgates opening onto the vast marshes to the south, delivering silt and fresh water to reclaim the marshes. The Port of New Orleans shipping channels could have been rerouted so that the river’s silt would rebuild the barrier islands that block storm surges.

All of this was completely do-able. Various parts of it had been mapped out in plans drawn up year after year. One big consolidated plan was put together in 1998 by scientists, including from the Army Corps of Engineers, called Coastal 2050. The price was the relatively tiny amount of 14 billion dollars.

Fourteen billion dollars to save a city with long traditions–not to mention protecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. But the money wasn’t spent.

Government after government ignored the warnings. Clinton didn’t do it. And neither did Bush.

This storm WAS predicted, and so was its effect. For at least thirty-five years, there was a clear understanding of the situation and what to do about it. But those with the power to do something did nothing. They chose not to spend the money to protect the lives of ordinary people.

It was negligence–criminal negligence on a vast scale!