After Irene, remembering Katrina

Updated
NEW ORLEANS - A man walks next to the 17th Street canal levee, which breached in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
NEW ORLEANS - A man walks next to the 17th Street canal levee, which breached in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Despite the complaints of some New York City residents about Hurricane Irene’s “hype,” it delivered a lot of very real damage to many Americans (including New Yorkers). Perspective is at a particular premium today, the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s horrific arrival in the Gulf Coast. The news there, also, is troubling.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on this Katrina-related “near-fail” today:

A new Army Corps of Engineers rating system for the nation’s levees is about to deliver a near-failing grade to New Orleans area dikes, despite the internationally acclaimed $10 billion effort to rebuild the system in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina…

The hurricane and river levees are designed to protect from surge created by a so-called 100-year hurricane, or a storm with a 1 percent chance of occurring. The ratings show that 500-year events, with a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any year, will overtop the levees and cause significant flooding.

Katrina was considered just below that 500-year standard, per the report. Understandably, Army Corps of Engineers officials anticipate anything negative with the words “levees,” “New Orleans” and “hurricane” in them to be received poorly by the public (especially at this time of year). But there is a very specific reason why they’re doing this now:

The hope is it will help the corps, local sponsors and Congress to select the most important levee improvement projects from what are likely to be thousands of improvement proposals identified through the inspection process, which will become more important with “an increasingly limited and constrained federal investment on these kinds of projects”…

It remains to be seen whether such a tactic will be effective in today’s Washington. Case in point? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced this morning in an interview that once again, Republicans will insist that any federal aid (this time for Hurricane Irene) will have to be offset by cuts in federal spending. Can the Corps get Republicans to focus on New Orleans’ needs when, in Irene’s case, their selective adherence to political doctrine is taking precedence?

After Irene, remembering Katrina

Updated