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Chief of Engineers Addresses Common Misconceptions Regarding New Orleans Flooding

On Thursday, September 1, the Corps of Engineers conducted a second phone press conference, with Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chief of Engineers participating. General Strock addressed several misconceptions that exist in discussions of the Corps’ handling of the flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

There have been suggestions that inadequate funding for levee projects delayed their completion and resulted in the flooding of New Orleans.

GEN. STROCK: “In fact, the levee failures we saw were in areas of the projects that were at their full project design... So that part of the project was in place, and had this project been fully complete … [West Bank, Southeast Louisiana, and Lake Ponchartrain] it’s my opinion, based on the intensity of this storm, that the flooding of the Central Business District and the French Quarter would still have occurred. So I do not see that the level of funding is really a contributing factor in this case.”

There have also been suggestions that the Corps of Engineers was unable to fully fund flood control needs in New Orleans or elsewhere because funding was diverted to the Global War on Terror.

GEN. STROCK: “Let me also address the issue of the general impact of the war in Iraq on civil works funding. We’ve seen some suggestions that our budget has been affected by the war. I can also say that I do not see that to be the case. If you look at the historical levels of funding for the Corps of Engineers from the pre-war levels back to 1992, ’91, before we actually got into this, you’ll see that the level of funding has been fairly stable throughout that period. So I think we would see that our funding levels would have dropped off if that were the case; so I do not see that as an issue that is relevant to the discussion of the flood protection of the City of New Orleans.”

Finally, some believe that New Orleans flooded because there were inadequate coastal wetlands in Southern Louisiana to absorb the storm surge.

GEN. STROCK: “Again, my assessment in this case is that any loss of wetlands in the barrier islands associated with those processes did not have a significant impact on this event. I say this because the storm track took it east of the City of New Orleans, and most of those barrier islands and marshlands are located to the south and west of the city; so the storm did not track through that direction anyway, and I don’t think that that was a contributing factor in the situation."

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