Hurricanes don’t have any trouble following MR-G0, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, but following the related court and Corps action is an entirely different matter.
The Times-Picayune recently ran a story on the Corps’ proposal to rebuild the wetlands MR-Go destroyed. Expecting the decision had some relationship to or impact on the court case, Robinson v Corps of Engineering, I checked the case website but found little changed from that included in the case background posted on SLABBED.
Plaintiffs contend that because of the Corp’s negligence in designing, construction, maintenance and operation of MRGO, it caused the surge during Hurricane Katrina to be 3 feet greater than it would have been otherwise. Plaintiffs argue that the cause of that increase was that: (1) the loss of the surrounding wetlands with the creation of MRGO; (2) the failure of the Corps to armor the banks of the MRGO which caused further harm to those wetlands and (3) the “funnel effect” created the design of the MRGO and its relationship to other waterways surrounding the metropolitan New Orleans area.
The biggest surge to hit MR-Go since Katrina has to be the docket on the case in Judge Duvall’s court – a docket that from October 15 forward alone copies to 21 single-spaced, letter-sized pages because the MR-GO case is part of the larger Consolidated Canal Breaches Litigation!
Most of the October action has been on other of the consolidated cases. Nonetheless, there were significant developments in the MR-GO case as you can tell from the time line in the case management Order issued on the 9th of October.
The Plaintiff’s response (opposition to summary judgment) due on the 22nd is available – although I’ve yet to locate the motion filed by the defense) – and for who know the Corps’ plays and players better than I, here are the Defendant’s lists of possible witnesses and exhibits.
All of this court action follows the release of a Congressional Research Report, Federal Liability for Flood Damage Related to Army Corps of Engineers Projects on September 4, 2008.
I’m not certain where the report “fits” in the big picture; but it’s interesting reading on flood damage and the Corps in general. I found this section related to the role MR-GO played in the breach of the levees particularly interesting.
…Another theory of causation is that the levees were overtopped or breached because the storm surge was enhanced by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). MRGO (also known as Mr. Go) is a 76-mile navigational channel between the Port of New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. It is designed as a shortcut for ships.
Studies have reviewed whether MRGO became a hurricane highway, or a funnel, acting as an accelerator in moving water from the Gulf into the IHNC. IPET found that MRGO did not accelerate the movement of the water.
However, it did find that a portion of MRGO allowed the Lake Borgne waters to be pushed into the interior of New Orleans. IPET found that this connection amplified the surge level and velocity through the interior of the city and raised the level of Lake Pontchartrain. In turn, that increased the pressure on the levees throughout the area, according to IPET.
Clearly, MR-GO is going somewhere but according to today’s Ladder, there’s more to this story reported in the Times.
The projects are being paid for with money appropriated by Congress in 2005 to close the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, but represent only a small part of expected efforts to reverse the erosion caused by the 40-year-old shipping shortcut to the Industrial Canal.
The Times is back today with this followup:
U.S. Sen. David Vitter on Monday demanded the Army Corps of Engineers sign an agreement with the state of Louisiana — with terms favoring the state — that would clear the way for construction of a rock dike closing the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet by the beginning of the 2009 hurricane season.
The letter came as the state and senior corps officials continue to negotiate the terms of the agreement.
“The Corps is holding a gun to the state’s head, demanding significant state matches and contributions regarding the project which are inconsistent” with the congressional authorizations governing the closure project, Vitter stated in his letter…
Hopefully, wherever MR-GO is going next, someone will be there to catch the story!