Monday, April 03, 2006

Stunned But Not Surprised

Like everyone else that I've talked to, I'm still totally flabbergasted, even though I wasn't all that surprised in the first place. No, I'm not talking about Saturday night's LSU game, although, in that case, I wasn't surprised but I am still shocked. I'm talking about last week's news that the expected cost of levee repairs had increased dramatically. Of course, the initial Times Picayune story had the numbers wrong, the estimated $3.5B price tag hadn't increased to $6B, it had increased by $6B, it hadn't doubled, but nearly tripled. Understandable, it was breaking story--the details might not have been clear yet, but I do have to wonder at the headline on the T/P's follow-up story:

La. wants more levee money -- and quick

Sometimes I just really have to wonder whether some headline writer at the T/P is just trying to provide fodder for right wing talk show hosts.

Now that I've got the expected T/P criticism out of the way, I must say that nobody should really be surprised. The numbers really never added up. First we were told that $3B (numbers given approximate) would make the levees safe. When that appropriation ws cut, we were told that $1.5B would be enough; then, when the appropriation was restored, we were assured that $3B would be enough. Considering the extent of the known damage to the levee system and the fact that integrity of the entire system has been called into question, was anybody really confident with the $3B figure? It wouldn't be too cynical to suggest that the ACoE felt pressure to keep its estimates in line with administration budget requests; it certainly wouldn't be out of character for the Bush administration to misstate cost projections.

The stated reason for the increased cost seems reasonable:

What the studies we've done have determined is that the rate of subsidence was greater than had previously been thought, and that many of the areas are lower than we had previously thought.

However, a new study indicating that that subsidence rates had previously been understated came out in December. It seems suspicious that the new findings weren't taken into account in the old cost estimates. To be fair, that would mean that integrity and professionalism ultimately won out over political pressure at the ACoE.

Finally, it should be be pointed out that new cost estimates, even with the $3B for Plaquemines Parish, are still about the same as New York's proposed East Side Access transportation project or $5B less than the cost of Boston's Big Dig. Those projects do both serve more people, but they also involve transportation time rather than physical safety.

Unfortunately, seeing that a name that we all know from Iraq and Gulf Coast Reconstruction costs overruns is still making news for its role in The Big Dig, I can't help but worry about that $9.5B figure.

We've started a campaign to get Bush to fund the New Orleans area levees and bring attention to the issue.
We're asking people to send their Mardi Gras Beads (any beads will do) to Bush with a message to fund the levees.

Info is here...
Send Your Beads to Bush

We need pictures of people getting their beads ready to send. Can you help? Send any pics to
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