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Greens vs. Levees - Destructive river-management philosophy
National Review online ^ | September 8, 2005 | John Berlau

Posted on 09/08/2005 6:01:07 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

With all that has happened in the state, it’s understandable that the Louisiana chapter of the Sierra Club may not have updated its website. But when its members get around to it, they may want to change the wording of one item in particular. The site brags that the group is “working to keep the Atchafalaya Basin,” which adjoins the Mississippi River not far from New Orleans, “wet and wild.”

These words may seem especially inappropriate after the breaking of the levee that caused the tragic events in New Orleans last week. But “wet and wild” has a larger significance in light of those events, and so does the group using the phrase. The national Sierra Club was one of several environmental groups who sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop a 1996 plan to raise and fortify Mississippi River levees.

The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”

But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.” In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.

The lawsuit was settled in 1997 with the Corps agreeing to hold off on some work while doing an additional two-year environmental impact study. Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain.

But it is just one illustration of a destructive river-management philosophy that took hold in the ‘90s, influenced the Clinton administration, and had serious policy consequences. Put simply, it’s impossible to understand the delays in building levees without being aware of the opposition of the environmental groups to dams, levees, and anything that interfered with the “natural” river flow. The group American Rivers, which leads coalitions of eco-groups on river policy, has for years actually called its campaign, “Rivers Unplugged.”

Over the past few years, levees came to occupy the same status for environmental groups as roads in forests — an artificial barrier to nature. They frequently campaigned against levees being built and shored up on the nation’s rivers, including on the Mississippi.

In 2000, American Rivers’ Mississippi River Regional Representative Jeffrey Stein complained in a congressional hearing that the river’s “levees that temporarily protect floodplain farms have reduced the frequency, extent and magnitude of high flows, robbing the river of its ability … to sustain itself.” Similarly, the National Audubon Society, referring specifically to Louisiana, has this statement slamming levees on its website, “Levees have cut off freshwater flows, harming fishing and creating salt water intrusion.” The left-leaning Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, in describing a grant it gave to Environmental Defense, blasted “the numerous levees and canals built on the lower Mississippi River” because “such structures disrupt the natural flows of the Mississippi River’s sediments.”

Some went beyond opposition to building or repairing levees. At an Army Corps of Engineers meeting concerning the Mississippi River in 2002, Audubon official Dan McGuiness even recommended “looking at opportunities to lower or remove levees [emphasis added]” from the river.

The groups argued that the “natural” way would lead to better river management, but it was clear they had other agendas in mind besides flood control. They were concerned because levees were allegedly threatening their beloved exotic animals and plants. In his testimony, American Rivers’s Stein noted that the Mississippi River was home to “double-crested cormorant, rare orchids, and many other species,” which he implied were put at risk by man-made levees.

So far the environmental movement’s role in the events leading to the flooding has been little discussed. One exception is former Rep. Bob Livingston (R., La.), who told Fox News on Saturday that environmentalists were one of the major reasons levee projects were held up.

At this point, there are still questions about the particular levees that broke in New Orleans. Care should be taken about drawing direct conclusions about the causes until there are more facts. But there are some important points that are clear that should put in perspective about levee funding and flood control.

Nearly all flood-control projects — even relatively small ones — are subject to a variety of assessments for effects on wetlands, endangered species, and other environmental concerns. These reviews can be costly and delay projects by years. In the ‘90s, for instance, the Clinton administration’s Environmental Protection Agency required a comprehensive environmental impact statement just to repair a few Colorado River levees that had been destroyed in the floods of 1993.

The Clinton administration would frequently side with environmentalists on flood-control projects, even against local Democrats. The Army Corps of Engineers under Clinton began implementing a planned “spring rise” of the Missouri River that would raise water levels on the Missouri River during part of the year. This was supported by eco-groups, who argued that this restored the river’s natural flows and protected a bird called the piping plover. But farm groups and others said that combined with the ice melting from winter, the project could increase the risk of flooding in river communities and affect more than 1 million acres of productive farmland. Nearly all the Republicans and Democrats in Missouri’s congressional delegation opposed the plan, as did Missouri’s late Democratic governor, Mel Carnahan. But the Clinton administration refused to budge, and this was a major factor in Bush’s carrying of Missouri in 2000.

The Bush administration’s flood-control efforts were often relentlessly opposed by environmental groups, and this opposition was frequently echoed by liberal activists and in the press. Bush kept his promise, and his appointees at the Corps of Engineers have stopped the “spring rise” plan that concerned so many about flooding. Environmentalists launched a barrage of criticism and a series of lawsuits. This was also the case with Bush’s moves to stop the Clinton administration’s plans to breach the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the northwest. Even though the dams greatly help to control flooding in the region, American Rivers blasted the administration for failing to do enough to save the sockeye salmon native to the region.

Ironically, among those criticizing Bush for his actions to prevent flooding of the Missouri River was the ever-present anti-Bush environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He chastised Bush in 2004 for “managing the flow of the Missouri River.” If, before Katrina, Bush had proceeded full-speed ahead and fortified the levees of the Mississippi for a Category 5 hurricane, Kennedy and others of his ilk would very likely have criticized Bush for trying to manage the natural flow of the Mississippi. And it’s a good bet that many of the lefty bloggers now critical of Bush for not reinforcing the levees would have cited Bush’s levee fortification as another way he was despoiling the natural environment.

— John Berlau is the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: armycorpengineers; blamegame; ecoterrorism; environmentalists; enviroweenies; greenieweenies; greens; katrina; levees; mississippiriver; neworleans; neworleansblame; neworleansflood; nola; pajamapeoplerule; sierraclub; wetandwild; wetlands
There are a lot of LINKS in the article.
1 posted on 09/08/2005 6:01:08 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Humams have been managing rivers, lakes and other natural resources for tens of thousands of years. Mother Nature undoes it all every once in a while.

The Greens want power, all in the name of the environment.

Geez, we all want a good environment. It's the source of life. The Greens are just user-fanatics with bigger egos, more letters after their names and bigger holes in their heads.

2 posted on 09/08/2005 6:05:07 AM PDT by starfish923 (Iohannas Paulus II, Requiescat in Pacem)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

I was listening to George Noory last night and a caller said that he heard that two containers of MTBE had ruptured and spilled into the flood waters. This is not confirmed at this point.

3 posted on 09/08/2005 6:09:16 AM PDT by Enterprise (When Rats govern they screw up and people die. Then, the Rats want to punch the President.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
>>>>>At an Army Corps of Engineers meeting concerning the Mississippi River in 2002, Audubon official Dan McGuiness even recommended “looking at opportunities to lower or remove levees [emphasis added]” from the river

I wonder he thought of hurricane Katrina?
4 posted on 09/08/2005 6:13:33 AM PDT by .cnI redruM ("No wonder [Bob Denver's] dead. Bush left him on that island." -NRO)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Let me add this as well. If ya go to the site, the article has many hot links. I also posted this on FR.

New Orleans: A Green Genocide [BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS]
FrontPage Magazine ^ | Sept. 8, 2005 | Michael P. Tremoglie and Ben Johnson

As radical environmentalists continue to blame the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on President Bush’s ecological policies, a mainstream Louisiana media outlet inadvertently disclosed a shocking fact: Environmentalist activists were responsible for spiking a plan that may have saved New Orleans. Decades ago, the Green Left – pursuing its agenda of valuing wetlands and topographical “diversity” over human life – sued to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from building floodgates that would have prevented significant flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Barrier Project planned to build fortifications at two strategic locations, which would keep massive storms on the Gulf of Mexico from causing Lake Pontchartrain to flood the city. An article in the May 28, 2005, New Orleans Times-Picayune stated, “Under the original plan, floodgate-type structures would have been built at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur passes to block storm surges from moving from the Gulf into Lake Pontchartrain.”

“The floodgates would have blocked the flow of water from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, through the Rigolets [and Chef Mentuer] into Lake Pontchartrain,” declared Professor Gregory Stone, the James P. Morgan Distinguished Professor and Director of the Coastal Studies Institute of Louisiana State University. “This would likely have reduced storm surge coming from the Gulf and into the Lake Pontchartrain,” Professor Stone told Michael P. Tremoglie during an interview on September 6. The professor concluded, “[T]hese floodgates would have alleviated the flooding of New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina.”

The New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers and Professor Stone were not the only people cognizant of the consequences that could and did result because of the environmental activists. While speaking with Sean Hannity on his radio show on Labor Day, former Louisiana Congressman and Speaker of the House Bob Livingston also referred to environmentalists whose litigation prevented hurricane prevention projects.

In other words, unlike other programs – including the ones leftists like Sid Blumenthal excoriated the president for not funding – these constructions might have prevented the loss of life experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Why was this project aborted? As the Times-Picayune wrote, “Those plans were abandoned after environmental advocates successfully sued to stop the projects as too damaging to the wetlands and the lake's eco-system.” (Emphasis added.) Specifically, in 1977, a state environmentalist group known as Save Our Wetlands (SOWL) sued to have it stopped. SOWL stated the proposed Rigolets and Chef Menteur floodgates of the Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Prevention Project would have a negative effect on the area surrounding Lake Pontchartrain. Further, SOWL’s recollection of this case demonstrates they considered this move the first step in a perfidious design to drain Lake Pontchartrain entirely and open the area to dreaded capitalist investment.

On December 30, 1977, U.S. District Judge Charles Schwartz Jr. issued an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Pontchartrain hurricane protection project, demanding the engineers draw up a second environmental impact statement, three years after the corps submitted the first one. In one of the most ironic pronouncements of all time, Judge Schwartz wrote, “it is the opinion of the Court that plaintiffs herein have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project based upon the August, 1974 FEIS [federal environmental impact statement] is allowed to continue.”

If the Greens prevailed, it was not because the forces of common sense did not make a compelling case. SOWL’s account reveals that during the course of the trial the defense counsel, Gerald Gallinghouse – a Republican U.S. Attorney who acted as a special prosecutor during the Carter administration – felt so strongly that the project should continue that he told the judge he would “go before the United States Congress with [Democratic Louisiana Congressman] F. Edward Hebert to pass a resolution, exempting the Hurricane Barrier Project from the rules and regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act because, in his opinion, [this plan] is necessary to protect the citizens of New Orleans from a hurricane.” Despite this, the judge ruled in favor of the environmentalists. Ultimately, the project was aborted in favor of building up existing levees.

However, the old plan lived on in the minds of those who put human beings first. The Army Corps of Engineers as recently as last year had publicly discussed resuming the practice. The September-October 2004 edition of Riverside (the magazine of the New Orleans District Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Office) referred to this lawsuit and project. Eric Lincoln’s article titled, “Old Plans Revived for Category 5 Hurricane Protection,” stated:

In 1977, plans for hurricane protection structures at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass were sunk when environmental groups sued the district. They believed that the environmental impact statement did not adequately address several potential problems, including impacts on Lake Pontchartrain’s ecosystem and damage to wetlands.

Ultimately, an agreement between the parties resulted in a consent decree to forego the structures at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass…The new initial feasibility study will look at protecting the area between the Pearl River and Mississippi River from a Category 5 storm…. (Emphasis added.)

The article added, “[A]lternatives that would be studied in the initial feasibility report are: Construction of floodgate structures, with environmental modifications, at Rigolets and Chef Pass.” (Emphasis added.) The Times-Picayune recorded last May, “the corps wants to take another look [at building the floodgates] using more environmentally sensitive construction than was previously available.” This time the Army Corps of Engineers would modify the original plans because of the environmentalists. However, the project was already delayed more than two decades because of the environmentalists’ lawsuit. If begun immediately it would take another two decades to complete: a 40-year delay caused by the Green Left.

Planning for a category five hurricane was, indeed, visionary thinking. Few people believed such a storm would take place more often than once every few centuries, and no one had the political will to fight for the funding such a project would necessitate. However, scientists had long warned about New Orleans’ vulnerability to the potential for massive loss of life caused by such things as the environmentalists’ lawsuit. A National Geographic article, written after a smaller hurricane last year, captured the sentiments of one such expert:

“The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours – coming from the worst direction,” says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast…“I don’t think people realize how precarious we are.”

As it turned out, this is exactly how events played out during the next hurricane, one year later. USA Today noted, the levees the government had constructed were no match for the vortex of this force of nature. Soon Katrina pushed inland:

Hurricane Katrina pushed Lake Pontchartrain over the flood walls, Hall said. The spilling water then undermined the walls, and they toppled…Lake Pontchartrain, a body half the size of Rhode Island, was losing about a foot of water every 10 hours into New Orleans.

The rushing lake soon overwhelmed the city’s pumps. The ever-rising water soon mixed with sewage, creating a toxic liquid mixture that burned the skin on contact. When the flood levels grounded the city buses Mayor Ray Nagin never deployed, it denied thousands of New Orleans’ poorest and feeblest an escape.

Despite the mayor’s apparent incompetence, these floodgates environmental activists sued to prevent from being constructed may have kept a flood from consuming the city to the extent it did in the first place. The current programs aimed at reinforcing existing levees but would only prove effective against a level three hurricane; they were not adequate for a level five storm like Katrina. Moreover, they did not fortify the specific areas the government sought to protect, to keep Lake Pontchartrain from flooding the entire city, which everyone knew posed a danger to a city below sea level. In other words, this plan would have saved thousands of lives and kept one of the nation’s greatest cities from lying in ruins for a decade.

At a minimum, such a plan would have staved off a significant portion of the disaster that’s unfolded before our eyes.

Worse yet, the environmentalists’ ultimate decision to reinforce existing levees may have actually further harmed the Big Easy. There is at least one expert who claims the New Orleans levees made no difference – in fact, they contributed to the problem. Deputy Director of the LSU Hurricane Center and Director of the Center for the Study Public Health Impacts by Hurricanes Ivor van Heerden said, “The levees ‘have literally starved our wetlands to death’ by directing all of that precious silt out into the Gulf of Mexico.”

SOWL boasts, “SOWL's legacy lives on and on within the heart and spirit of every man, woman, child, bird, red fish, speckle trout, croakers, etc.”

Despite its pious rhetoric, the environmental Left’s true legacy will be on display in New Orleans for years to come.

5 posted on 09/08/2005 6:17:18 AM PDT by conservativecorner
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Perhaps someone more familiar with environmental law can correct me, but isn't there legal restrictions on what can be done with wetlands? Also, if an area is underwater for a certain amount of time, it can be declared a wetland and then subjected to protection? What this means is that if NO isn't pumped out fast, it could become an environmentalists wet dream - the city could be declared a wetland and could never be pumped out! To harmful for the environment and would cause a loss of wetlands. The area needs protecting. Environmentalists would love to see a metropolitan city returned to nature. THese freaks make me sick.

6 posted on 09/08/2005 6:17:20 AM PDT by doc30 (Democrats are to morals what and Etch-A-Sketch is to Art.)
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To: .cnI redruM

Oh, they'll blame Bush for all the toxic water that's being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain.

7 posted on 09/08/2005 6:21:55 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

BUMP, good find.

8 posted on 09/08/2005 6:25:05 AM PDT by weegee (The lesson from New Orleans? Smart Growth kills. You can't evacuate dense populations easily.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
How does reinforcing levees on the Mississippi river prevent flood walls on the canals in New Orleans from rupturing and draining Lake Pontchartrain into the city? Not one levee on the river failed after this Cat 4 hurricane.
9 posted on 09/08/2005 6:34:22 AM PDT by green iguana
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Saving BUMP!

10 posted on 09/08/2005 6:42:34 AM PDT by JimRed ("Hey, hey, Teddy K., how many girls did you drown today?")
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

What is laughable is that now it is a%%$$## like R Kennedy that blame Bush for Katrina - global warming. He's nuts, a real wacko.

11 posted on 09/08/2005 6:44:18 AM PDT by Wuli
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Also Environmentalists Partly to Blame for New Orleans Flooding
12 posted on 09/08/2005 6:44:35 AM PDT by weegee (The lesson from New Orleans? Smart Growth kills. You can't evacuate dense populations easily.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
So by trying to save the poor bears, they actually doomed them.

Bears are tough but I expect the species was decimated, first from the storm and then from the flooding.
13 posted on 09/08/2005 6:56:41 AM PDT by George W. Bush
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To: Cincinatus' Wife


14 posted on 09/08/2005 7:05:56 AM PDT by Cold Heart
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Might want to read the article "Drowning New Orleans" at This compelling article was originally published in the October 2001 issue of Scientific American. The link to it is as noted above and can be found near the top of the page.

15 posted on 09/08/2005 7:08:26 AM PDT by Irxfxs
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To: green iguana
How does reinforcing levees on the Mississippi river prevent flood walls on the canals in New Orleans from rupturing and draining Lake Pontchartrain into the city? Not one levee on the river failed after this Cat 4 hurricane.

You make an excellent point. There are many facts that will eventually come to the attention of the segment of public that has an open mind.

As usual the truth lies somewhere between the rabid Bush bashers (MSM) and the redneck right.

Short term wisdom says if the levees that failed had of been stronger and taller the flooding would not have happened. True! (If my aunt had balls she would be my uncle.)

There is also some truth in the enviro side. The natural sediment agradation that prevents the marsh lands in the Delta from replenishing to provide 1st line protection is limited by the levees along the Mississippi River. This is a mechanism used by the Corp of Engineers to move the sediment out of the channel so shipping is not impeded.

As I state above, nothing difficult is ever easy. This is a complex situation.

16 posted on 09/08/2005 7:55:15 AM PDT by River_Wrangler (You can't be lost if you don't care where you're at !)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Someone needs to post this at DU.

17 posted on 09/08/2005 8:11:34 AM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Yeah, they'll claim he watered the shrubbery nearby...

18 posted on 09/08/2005 8:32:42 AM PDT by .cnI redruM ("No wonder [Bob Denver's] dead. Bush left him on that island." -NRO)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Fellow Freepers:

At the suggestion of writer Michelle Malkin last Friday, I have cobbled together a blogsite called Texas Clearinghouse for Katrina Aid to serve as a clearinghouse for refugee efforts in Texas.

Texas is getting more refugees than any other state -- that's fine, we'll take them all -- but we need help providing them with food, clothing, medicine, and shelter. We need help taking care of their pets, too.

If you are a refugee, you can information that will help you find relief. If you want to donate or volunteer, you can find someone who needs you. Believe me, there are a lot of organizations who need your help.

Right now the site mostly covers Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas but I'm adding more every night. My wife was down at Reunion Arena in Dallas Tuesday handing out care packages and spiritually ministering to the refugees as a representative of her employer. She says that the situation is tragic and that there's a lot of work to be done. There are so many children who don't know where their parents are or even if their parents are still alive.

There are a lot of churches and other organizations in Texas that need help in dealing with the problem and I would appreciate it if you would get the word out.

Many thanks,

Michael McCullough

Stingray blogsite

19 posted on 09/08/2005 3:27:08 PM PDT by DallasMike
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Bump and bookmark.

20 posted on 09/09/2005 1:48:55 PM PDT by murdoog (You're probably wondering why I'm here)
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