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RE: [greenyes] Bush administration trying to blame environmentalists for katrina damage

Bush administration trying to blame environmentalists for katrina
damageJackson, MS. It's part of the Gannett chain.
-----Original Message-----
From: amy perlmutter [mailto:amyperl@no.address]
Sent: Friday, September 16, 2005 6:05 PM
To: greenyes
Subject: [greenyes] Bush administration trying to blame environmentalists
for katrina damage

anyone know where the clarion-ledger is based?

E-mail Suggests Government Seeking to Blame Groups
By Jerry Mitchell
The Clarion-Ledger

Friday 16 September 2005

Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New
Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the US
Department of Justice sent out this week to various US attorneys' offices:
"Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (US) Army Corps of
Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or
otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so,
please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said
Thursday she couldn't comment "because it's an internal e-mail."

Shown a copy of the e-mail, David Bookbinder, senior attorney for
Sierra Club, remarked, "Why are they (Bush administration officials) trying
to smear us like this?"

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had nothing to do with
the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina that killed hundreds, he
said. "It's unfortunate that the Bush administration is trying to shift the
blame to environmental groups. It doesn't surprise me at all."

Federal officials say the e-mail was prompted by a congressional
inquiry but wouldn't comment further.

Whoever is behind the e-mail may have spotted the Sept. 8 issue of
National Review Online that chastised the Sierra Club and other
environmental groups for suing to halt the corps' 1996 plan to raise and
fortify 303 miles of Mississippi River levees in Louisiana, Mississippi and

The corps settled the litigation in 1997, agreeing to hold off on some
work until an environmental impact could be completed. The National Review
article concluded: "Whether this delay directly affected the levees that
broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain."

The problem with that conclusion?

The levees that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi
River levees. They were levees that protected the city from Lake
Pontchartrain levees on the other side of the city.

When Katrina struck, the hurricane pushed tons of water from the Gulf
of Mexico into Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city to the north.
Corps officials say the water from the lake cleared the levees by 3 feet. It
was those floodwaters, they say, that caused the levees to degrade until
they ruptured, causing 80 percent of New Orleans to flood.

Bookbinder said the purpose of the litigation by the Sierra Club and
others in 1996 was where the corps got the dirt for the project. "We had no
objections to levees," he said. "We said, 'Just don't dig film materials out
of the wetlands. Get the dirt from somewhere else.'"

If you listen to what some conservatives say about environmentalists,
he said, "We're responsible for most of the world's ills."

In 1977, the corps wanted to build a 25-mile-long barrier and gate
system to protect New Orleans on the east side. Both environmental groups
and fishermen opposed the project, saying it would choke off water into Lake

After litigation, corps officials abandoned the idea, deciding instead
to build higher levees. "They came up with a cheaper alternative,"
Bookbinder said. "We didn't object to raising the levees."

John Hall, a spokesman for the corps in New Orleans, said the barrier
the corps was proposing in the 1970s would only stand up to a weak Category
3 hurricane, not a Category 4 hurricane like Katrina. "How much that would
have prevented anything, I'm not sure," he said.

Since 1999, corps officials have studied the concept of building huge
floodgates to prevent flooding in New Orleans from a Category 4 or 5

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2001 listed a
hurricane striking New Orleans as one of the top three catastrophic events
the nation could face (the others being a terrorist attack on New York City
and an earthquake in San Francisco), funding for corps projects aimed at
curbing flooding in southeast Louisiana lagged.

US Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, has said the White House cut $400 million
from corps' requests for flood control money in the area.

In fiscal 2006, the corps had hoped to receive up to $10 million in
funding for a six-year feasibility study on such floodgates. According to a
recent estimate, the project would take 10 years to build and cost $2.5

"Our understanding is the locals would like to go to that," Hall said.
"If I were local, I'd want it."

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