Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A couple of things to add to that last post. Between the hiring of a high-powered lobbying firm to present the state's case, more evidence that the floodwall failures were foreseeable, and favorable national publicity, it would seem that the odds have improved that congress will restore the $4.2B that it stripped from Louisiana's housing appropriation. A couple of things to point out, though.

Even when it seemed that Louisiana would get $4.2B, there were some apparent problems with the appropriation:

In Washington for the National Governor's Association meeting, Blanco said she is worried that the restricting the housing money to "mitigation" uses could turn the worst flood-damaged sections of the city into green space, off limits to residential or commercial development.

Under the act, the state could spend the money to raise homes or fortify them against future flooding. The homes also could be purchased outright. But if they are, they cannot be placed back into commerce, only used as green space or wetlands.

My guess would be that a lot of people overlooked that particular story because it came out on Mardi Gras Day. Assuming the money is restored, it will obviously be important to pay attention to the details.

The biggest worry might the FBI investigation into fraud and corruption in the construction of local levees. A week ago, I thought that instead of how much of the damage caused by Katrina and Rita occurred in Louisiana, and start concentrating on how much of the damage caused the Army Corps of Engineers occurred in Louisiana. It should remain in the state's presentation, but I can only hope that everyone who speaks for the state is prepared for the fact that some local featherbedding is bound to turn up somewhere. They won't need to convince me that if any corruption does turn up in the construction of the 17th Street Canal floodwall, it would have no connection to the construction of the London Avenue Canal floodwall, and that neither would have any connection to the levee failures that destroyed St. Bernard Parish, the lower ninth ward, or New Orleans East. Or that none of the above had anything to with the construction of MRGO* and that it was all done under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. They'll need to convince a national audience.

*To be fair, at least one study has questioned the extent to which MRGO contributed to the storm damage.

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