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Flood Budgeting
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I know a few other blogs have picked up on this, but I just saw it at Econopundit, and I find it remarkable. In recent days, the New York Times editorial board has criticized Congress for "slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in [New Orleans] flood protection".

But just a few months before—April 13, 2005—they wrote this:
Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water-related projects—this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.

And while the New York Times Editorial Board criticizes Congress for "years of environmental carelessness for which Congress itself is largely responsible", it's also worth noting that they previously praised "moderates and like-minded Democrats [for beating] back a bill that would have permanently exempted any flood control project from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act."

So, at least the endangered species are still alive. Shame the same can't be said about a few thousand people in New Orleans.

On September 5th, the New York Times Editorial Board criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for changes which would "hurry the river along and...propel its contents deep into the Gulf of Mexico...bypassing the coastal marshes and barrier islands". But in April of 2005, they cited environmentalist criticism that the Corp was "turning free-flowing rivers into lifeless canals".

In 2003, they called the Army Corps of Engineers "an incorrigibly spendthrift agency whose projects over the years have caused enormous damage to the nation's streams, rivers and wetlands". Today, they say conditions are "ripe" for a plan "drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers", which requires "the enthusiastic support of Washington's political leaders".

All of which brings me back to the position they took in 1993, that "Congress should resist pressure to spend more now because of this year's floods", because "a dam or a levee in one place creates problems somewhere else" and encourages "people to live and work and develop farming in flood plains that are inherently risky". At the time, they wrote that "Federal policy needs to control the risk, not just the rivers".

Today, we watch people finally finding out the risks that had previously been obscured by government subsidization. It's a good time to remember that everybody can bitch about too much/too little spending. But only the people who take the risks can decide whether it's truly worth it. When they don't, somebody will pay the difference. Sometimes with their lives.

[Cross-postged at Chequer Board]
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Previous Comments to this Post 

The Times has a certain bias towards city-dwellers. They don’t want to encourage farmers or small-town dwellers to live in flood plains. But a bustling, crowded hip, urban scene? Put those levees a bit higher!

(Mind you, I think no federal money should go to rebuilding anything that is actually below the water level. The feds should either buy the land outright, or provide incentives/roadblocks to the local officials to prevent them granting building permits in those zones.)
Written By: Dan
URL: http://
It ought to be turned into American Venice. Bust the levees down and let the water in. It probably going to have to be demolished in large part anyway. If they do that they may have enough landfill to raise new orleans above sea level.
Written By: ray

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