Monday, March 06, 2006

I still want an audit

You couldn't read today's Washington Post article questioning the quality of the levee repairs without noticing this sentence:

They say that weak, substandard materials are being used in some levee walls, citing lab tests as evidence.

My first thought was "WTF? Cui Bono?"(Yes, I think in a latin/internet lingo pidgin--plays havoc with the communication skills) Made a comment to that effect on another blog. Though I'm inclined to agree with Tim's comment that "no one stands to profit from levees that fall apart at the first splash of water," I also think it would be naive to rule out the possibility that money and time pressure could lead to the use of local clay.

Of course the main problem is that the numbers have never quite added up. We've been told that it would take $30-60B to build adequate levees, yet we've only had $3B appropriated for levee repairs. Though there have been some back page stories and some blogging about it, there hasn't been a lot of discussion of how safe $3B could make us, even short term. I just assumed that we'd be getting by on a band aid and a prayer, at least for this year. Of course, Washington has yet to commit to anything more long term.

Even assuming the $3B is enough for the short term, the numbers have never quite added up. Reading the T/P's optimistic story on the St. Bernard levees, if the Corps is spending $58M to repair the levees in St.Bernard, hard to see how it could be spending $3B in the area--considering the size of and the amount of damage to the St. Bernard Parish levee system. Even adding in the $25M cost of other flood protection projects in St. Bernard (separate chart in the print edition), the numbers don't quite seem right.

Obviously,I read the T/P story and wondered about the numbers before reading the WAPO story. The Post story refers to the $1.6B reconstruction project. What happenned to the rest of the money for levee repairs? Was it $1.6B all along, with the rest for other flood control projects? Are there any clear numbers anywhere, in the reconstruction allocations?

Even if the concerns raised in the Post article are overstated, and the Corps insists that they are, the Government is only spending enough to fix the damaged levees. That's at best a very short term solution. The federal government needs to acknowledge that, and I still want that audit.

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