Justice is starting to trickle back into our country a little bit at the time. Perhaps someday it will cause an overwhelming flood that runs through our courts and into the prison systems washing out the lies, abuse and prejudice.

NEW ORLEANS – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers' failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina, a decision that could make the federal government vulnerable to billions of dollars in claims.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval sided with six residents and one business who argued the Army Corps' shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He said, however, the corps couldn't be held liable for the flooding of eastern New Orleans, where two of the plaintiffs lived.

This channel was not the only design flaw in the levee system. We know for one thing the levee was not built high enough.

Duval awarded the plaintiffs $720,000, but the government could eventually be forced to pay much more in damages. The ruling should give more than 100,000 other individuals, businesses and government entities a better shot at claiming billions of dollars in damages.

The ruling is also emotionally resonant for south Louisiana. Many in New Orleans have argued that the flooding in the aftermath of Katrina, which struck the region Aug. 29, 2005, was a manmade disaster caused by the Army Corps' failure to maintain the levee system protecting the city.

The Bush regime knew this was going to happened and did not take action to prevent it, kind of like the information they had about 9/11 and did nothing.

"Total devastation could possibly have been avoided if something had been done," said Tanya Smith, one of the plaintiffs. "A lot of this stuff was preventable and they turned a deaf ear to it."

There was a man who had educated the country about the problems with not only the levee, but the damage that had been done to the wetlands around New Orleans from the oil companies. He told the government and lot of other people there would be a disaster, they ignored him. I had read about what he was saying and assumed logically the government had taken steps to decrease the dangers. They had not.

Greg Palast wrote this piece for Crooks and Liars.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's another floater. Four years on, there's another victim face down in the waters of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ivor van Heerden.

I don't get to use the word "heroic" very often. Van Heerden is heroic. The Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, it was van Heerden who told me, on camera, something so horrible, so frightening, that, if it weren't for his international stature, it would have been hard to believe:

"By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breached. Nobody."

On the night of August 29, 2005, van Heerden was shut in at the state emergency center in Baton Rouge, providing technical advice to the rescue effort. As Hurricane Katrina came ashore, van Heerden and the State Police there were high-fiving it: Katrina missed the city of New Orleans, turning east.

What they did not know was that the levees had cracked. For crucial hours, the White House knew, but withheld the information that the levees of New Orleans had broken and that the city was about to drown. Bush's boys did not notify the State of the flood to come which would have allowed police to launch an emergency hunt for the thousands that remained stranded.

"Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line," said van Heerden.

I don’t have a degree in law, but this sounds like manslaughter to me. To withhold information knowing people will be harmed and killed is a heinous crime. There are a lot of people who have died since due to disease caused by stress and poverty.

He shouldn't have told me that. The professor was already in trouble for saying, publicly, that the levees around New Orleans were no good, too short, by 18". They couldn't stand up to a storm like Katrina. He said it months before Katrina hit - in a call to the White House, and later in the press.

So, even before Katrina, even before our interview, the professor was in hot water. Van Heerden was told by University officials that his complaints jeopardized funding from the Bush Administration. They tried to gag him. He didn't care: he ripped off the gag and spoke out.

As far as I am concerned he is an American hero and a role model for all scientists who have been gagged by threats from the tyrants who were running our country.

The 36-year-old registered nurse anesthetist lived in Chalmette close to the channel when Katrina hit. She was awarded $317,000 in property damages, the most of any of the plaintiffs.

Duval referred to the corps' approach to maintaining the channel as "monumental negligence."

During trial testimony, government lawyers and experts argued the levee system was overwhelmed by the massive storm, and levee breaches couldn't solely be blamed on the shipping channel dug in the 1960s as a short-cut between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans.

The corps had also unsuccessfully argued that it is immune from liability because the channel is part of New Orleans' flood control system.

In his 156-page ruling, Duval said he was "utterly convinced" that the corps' failure to shore up the channel "doomed the channel to grow to two to three times its design width" and that "created a more forceful frontal wave attack on the levee" that protected St. Bernard and the Lower 9th Ward.

"The Corps had an opportunity to take a myriad of actions to alleviate this deterioration or rehabilitate this deterioration and failed to do so," Duval said. "Clearly the expression 'talk is cheap' applies here."

The corps has been sued before over levee failures and flooding, but it had always walked away untouched. That included after Hurricane Betsy in 1965 over alleged flooding by the outlet. Ahead of Duval's ruling, experts had said it would likely have consequences for the way the Army Corps does business nationwide.

Pierce O'Donnell, another lead plaintiffs lawyer, said the ruling was the "first time ever the Army Corps has been held liable for damages for a major catastrophe that it caused."

The plaintiffs lawyers would like Congress to set up a compensation fund to speed up payments to the thousands of other claimants, whose claims must still be heard in court.

The lawsuit was the first major case against the federal government over Katrina flooding to go to trial. A decision rested with Duval because a jury cannot try a case against the federal government.

Despite its statements in court, the corps has acknowledged the area's flood risk and closed the channel with rocks. It is also building a $1.3 billion floodgate to stop surge entering the city from the direction of the channel and Lake Borgne.

It is my hope the people of New Orleans who were devastated will get the help they need to rebuild their lives because I know there are many who are still having problems. It is nice to once again live in a country where science is being advanced and children are being encouraged to work hard in school so they can go to college.

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