Fix the pumps

Thursday, September 14, 2006


When conducting an investigation, it is very important to obtain paper documents, since they are permanent and are far tougher to refute than oral statements. During my investigations over the past few months, I have collected a wealth of documents - some publicly available, some not - pertaining to drainage in New Orleans post-Katrina. I'll be posting links to these documents over the coming days. This will allow you to come to your own conclusions, and give some insight as to how I came to my own findings.

I look to the 9/11 Commission as the exemplar of how to conduct an investigation. They kept the public in the loop every step of the way, conducting public hearings and issuing interim reports. This had two effects. It kept pressure on their targets constantly throughout the investigation, rather than just in the short period after the issuance of a final report. It also allowed the public to absorb important parts of the story without being overwhelmed by the detail of a large, final report. One other thing the 9/11 commission did was to communicate in plain English, only slipping into jargon when it was absolutely necessary. That was a large reason the 9/11 Report was a national best seller and was also only the second government report nominated for a National Book Award.

The most important document regarding the Corps repairs to the New Orleans pump stations is the Orleans Parish Pumping Station Project Information Report (PIR)

This report, issued on April 28th and approved by the Mississippi Valley Division on May 1 (four months after passage of the third Katrina supplemental, which supposedly funded the repairs), lays out the entire scope of work for the Corps in New Orleans' pump stations. The document was approved just four days after the Times-Picayune exposed the dangerous lack of rewinding repairs to motors which had been inundated on the front page. Corps projects cannot proceed without an approved PIR.

There are similar documents for Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and Plaquemines Parishes. As far as I know, no contracts have been issued for the last two, and only a single roofing contract has gone out in Jefferson.

All four pump station PIR's can also be found on the IPET website, in the "Post-Katrina" section. IPET is the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, which is the official name for the Corps' Katrina investigative team.

The second document the Corps requires to proceed with a project is called a Cooperative Agreement, or "CA." Sometimes it is referred to as a PCA, where P stands for Project.

In the case of the Orleans Parish pump stations, the Corps drafted two CA's. One covers work in facilities which have had previous federal funding directed toward them (pump stations 1 and Pritchard, which got SELA dollars). The other covers work in all the rest of the stations, which are referred to as "non-federal." The agreements are essentially the same, except for which stations to which they apply.


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