The Army Corps of Engineers can be held liable for flood damage caused by a "hurricane highway," a navigation channel that is believed to have funneled Hurricane Katrina's storm surge into the city, a federal judge ruled Friday.Better late than never. MRGO is a 40-year old channel, and it's no surprise that the Corps built it to facilitate commerce instead of safety or environmental stability. (I just saw a few Corps reservoirs on my trip through some of the driest parts of California. Count on the Corps to build lakes in the desert and "flood highways" in the tropics.)
The Corps of Engineers had argued that it was immune from liability because the channel is part of New Orleans' flood control system. The law says the federal government cannot be sued if something goes wrong with a flood control project such as a levee, reservoir or dam.
Judge Stanwood Duval dismissed that argument, saying the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or MRGO, was clearly a ship channel and not a flood control project.
Plaintiffs' lawyers said Duval's decision is a victory for homeowners, who have suffered setbacks in their efforts to hold the government legally responsible for storm damage.
Bottom Line: Manipulating nature to increase trade and profits may work in the short run, but Nature always moves last, and long-run success is unlikely. Subsidizing manipulation by using tax dollars and government workers is even more stupid, since the short run costs are nil.