(A Docudharma first! Promoting two essays at once! Please see kj’s diary directly above. – promoted by buhdydharma )
Many of us (though, sadly, not all) know by now that the damage to New Orleans was not caused by a natural disaster but by human error — the errors of the Army Corps of Engineers.
That’s why back in February of 2007, New Orleans federal court judge Stanwood Duvall ruled the ACOE couldn’t claim immunity:
The Army Corps of Engineers can’t assert immunity in a lawsuit over the catastrophic flooding following Hurricane Katrina, because of the plaintiffs’ claim that flooding stemmed from the agency’s negligence in fixing defects in the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet navigation project that it had known of for years, a New Orleans federal court judge ruled Friday.
Many folks read the reports of someone suing the ACOE for a quadrillion dollars, but that hardly tells the story, and was obviously a symbolic gesture.
Turns out, though, that same Judge Duvall has now thrown out a class action lawsuit against the ACOE even while admitting their gross negligence.
(Note: I believe there is a difference between the lawsuit over the MRGO and the charges against the ACOE over the breaking of the levees. As often as I have read about this, I still don’t entirely understand the difference and would welcome in the comments any clarification.)
From the AP:
A federal judge threw out a key class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over levee breaches after Hurricane Katrina, saying that the agency failed to protect the city but that his hands were tied by the law.
The ruling relies on the Flood Control Act of 1928, which made the federal government immune when flood control projects like levees break.
Yep, the ACOE was negligent and responsible for so much heartbreaking damage to the city of New Orleans. Even the judge admits it:
In his ruling, Duval said he was forced by law to hold the Corps immune even though the agency failed to “cast a blind eye” in protecting New Orleans and “squandered millions of dollars in building a levee system … which was known to be inadequate by the Corps’ own calculations.”
But, Duval said, “it is not within the Court’s power to address the wrongs committed. It is hopefully within the citizens of the United States’ power to address the failures of our laws and agencies.“
Yes, hopefully. Hopefully we the citizens will address the failures of our laws and agencies. But I guess accountability is too much to ask for.
The citizens of New Orleans who are working so hard to survive and rebuild their lives after the Federal Flood are an amazing community. Their self-reliance beggars the descriptions we read of early Americans on the frontiers of this nation. They know our government isn’t going to do anything to help them, so they are helping themselves.
But of course they can’t build levees all by themselves. And they can’t fix the wetlands that are being destroyed by our own greed for oil and commerce.
Hopefully the citizens of the United States will address the failures of our laws and agencies. Because, as I’ve said so many times before, this is a national issue.
Just a little last note. At the end of the story:
James Ackerson, 36, is nearly done repairing his home several blocks from the 17th Street Canal. He filed a claim with the Corps but wasn’t distressed to hear that the judge dismissed the case.
“It don’t mean much to me,” he said. “I’m not waiting on the government to give me nothing.”
No, like so many citizens of New Orleans, he’s not waiting on the government. It’s been over two and a half years, after all.
Hopefully we will remember, hopefully we will work hard to tell our representatives to address the failures of the laws and agencies that has caused this terrible tragedy and failed to hold accountable those who were responsible.