Vitter to Corps: Do your job
I've kept track of the passionate fallout to a boneheaded letter to the Times-Picayune's editors from a Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Officer, Vic Harris, at this post, updating it with each subsequent letter the paper has printed. You can catch up there.
Today, U.S. Senator David Vitter got his chance to chime in on the "controversy," which really appears to be simply inexplicable intransigence on the Corps' part to shut MR-GO, the Corps-constructed channel primarily blamed for much of the flooding seen in St. Bernard Parish during Katrina. I'm going to print his letter in its entirety, because it's really good.
But first, let me remind you what Mr. Harris said about the Senator in his letter:
"The Times-Picayune cravenly associated itself with Sen. David Vitter's opinion that appropriations enacted by Congress provided the corps funding and authority to close MR-GO. The $75 million is for continual operations, with a small part going to funding research on the MR-GO closure options -- not the authority to close."
Here's what Senator Vitter wrote in response:
Corps should quit inventing excuses, do its job
Saturday, January 13, 2007
"Re: "Experts, big computer clear MR-GO, corps says," Your Opinions, Dec. 22.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Vic Harris' letter to the editor suggests that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet's role in flooding southeast Louisiana was "insignificant." I join experts and millions of Louisiana citizens in expressing my utter disbelief at this claim.
Mr. Harris points out that the "world's fourth-largest supercomputer" was used to determine the minimal role of the MR-GO. While I commend the corps for tapping this impressive resource, any computer's answer is only as good as the question you ask it.
The question Mr. Harris asked focuses on a straw man -- the claim that MR-GO was an exclusive conduit for storm surge.
What he ignores is the leading role MR-GO has played in destroying much of our area's wetlands buffer over the past decades.
It doesn't take a supercomputer, only a trip to St. Bernard Parish, to understand the channel's destruction of tens of thousands of acres of coastal wetlands and what that produced in Katrina -- devastating storm surge reaching heavily populated areas.
Mr. Harris's contention that the corps does not have the authority to begin closure of MR-GO and stop this destruction is perhaps even more outrageous and worrisome.
The corps has the authority to begin closure now.
The law I passed last summer makes this perfectly clear, specifically authorizing structures to block storm surge and build wetlands.
It is now 16 months since Hurricane Katrina -- surely time for the agency to approach challenges with a can-do attitude rather than constantly inventing obstacles to progress.
I am meeting with the corps' leadership next week, and my message will be clear: I have worked to provide nearly $9 billion to the Corps of Engineers and to eliminate every real and perceived legal obstacle for it to give us solid hurricane, coastal and flood protection.
So just do it, starting with closing MR-GO.
You can view details of the specific legislative language to which Senator Vitter is referring in the Comments to this post