Yes I said 99% of the national financial media were sold out corporate whores but that does not mean there isn’t high quality business journalism happening folks. The trick is knowing where to look and today, as is often the case, it is on the front page of the local paper. Today Geoff Pender and Anita Lee examine the economics behind the Panama Canal expansion that includes a looksie at the shipping industry and the competition that ranks at the top of all the business stories I’ve read so far in 2012. The main reason for my enthusiasm is this piece has implications for every existing eastern port expanding in anticipation of the Panama Canal widening.
This snippet blows the political pump of these east coast harbor projects out of the water:
We’ve periodically updated Matt McBride’s series Debris over at Fix the Pumps and today we note part 9 of his series was posted several months ago when the Corp of Engineers told the West Bank Levee builder Phylway Construction to stop using dirt from the River Birch Borrow Pits in their construction. I mention this because Paul Rioux updated the continuing story of testing the nearly complete levee and what he reports today for the Times Picayune does not sound very promising as we find out the new levee contains things like water heaters and shopping carts. Now I could be sarcastic and suggest using old landfill material to construct levees to combat rising sea levels caused by global warming may be the wave of the future but I won’t. I’ve been around construction too long to understand this kind of thing happens a good bit. The owner of the project has to be vigilant to insure the project is built to their specifications and sometimes that includes busting the contractor’s chops when the specs are not followed. Unfortunately the Corp of Engineers appears to prefer the whitewash and coverup route and the residents over Marrero way are certain to suffer the impacts of that at a point in time in the future, likely after all the current players are long out of the game.
Through my time doing Slabbed I’ve seen the Corp of Engineers excoriated in the local blogosphere over levee issues that Hurricane Katrina laid bare. There are some folks like Western Carolina Professor Rob Young that have the opinion the CoE was scapegoated and indeed Rob tells me he received death threats after writing such in the Times Picayune. For my own part the relationship we have with the CoE here on the coast does not include any flood protection because we simply do not fill in marshes and develop them like happens in metro NOLA. That avoids the issue of depending on levees that inherently will fail over a long enough timeline altogether. That said I also watched the CoE steer post Katrina cleanup/demolition work to politically connected out-of-state contractors after Katrina so I well understand the agency is politicized and that is not a good thing for engineering IMHO. The fact the Corps of Engineers was caught on video trying to coverup the problems revealed by the levee testing just simply illustrates the problems inside the CoE that has made it fair game for majority of the withering criticism leveled at it since Katrina.
Late last month Matt at Fix the Pumps filed part 8 of his series Debris which documents logs being used as levee fill that go well beyond the project specifications. We’ve been steering readers to this series of posts as the dirt appears to be coming from Team River Birch owned pits and it now appears the problems are most manifested by one contractor. Matt’s latest installment features reporting from Channel 4 as they and the T-P’s Paul Rioux are feeding well at the table of facts Matt has constructed on his blog. In fact Rioux’s latest installment on this for the Times Picayune is today’s feature story and is also well worth the read.
Something starts to emerge from these reports: the River Birch pits are very, very bad. We’ve seen the possibility of it in the WBV-14b.2 reports above, we’ve seen it mentioned definitely in the WBV-14a.2 reports – also above – and we’ve seen it mentioned in the WBV-14c.2 reports earlier. Now it shows up in the most recent inspection report from project WBV-14e.2.
Folks there are few more dedicated niche bloggers in Metro NOLA than Matt McBride over at Fix the Pumps. Matt is a tireless advocate for properly constructed flood protection for New Orleans metro and in a 3 part series details the problems the Army Corps of Engineers is having with contractors delivering dirt for levee construction that is filled with woody debris, which is unsuitable levee material. Naturally my interest was piqued when the name Fred Heebe was mentioned in part 1 of Matt’s series Debris. Here is a snippet:
Folks the more I find out the more this sand berm scheme of dealing with the oil spill stinks. Let’s backtrack to last month to the beginning of the scheme and the bums rush to get it crammed down the Corps of Engineer’s throats per this Chris Kirkham story for the Times Picayune:
For years, state government officials, scientists and coastal residents have made numerous pleas to the federal government for money to restore Louisiana’s barrier islands.
In the midst of a catastrophic oil spill, they may finally get their shot.
Gov. Haley Barbour and DMR Director Bill Walker said Thursday they trust the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to allow Louisiana to build any berm or sand barriers east of the mouth of Mississippi River that would cause oil to flow into Mississippi waters.
Good thing you trust them Haley because no one down here does.