Fix the pumps

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Colonel Bedey popped up on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Monday night. You can find the transcript here. It was his first interview after the release of the Corps internal investigation into the floodgate pumps. Cooper interviewed him while standing on the deck of the 17th Street gates (talk about home field advantage).

He put out more than a few falsehoods in the interview.

Lie #1: [speaking about the internal investigation] "BEDEY: That report -- that report that was just published last week was actually a snapshot in time of September of last year."

What? Um, the date on the front of the report is May 11, 2007. There are pieces of correspondence attached to the report which are as recent as May 7, 2007. There are ten technical recommendations for work which (according to the report) have not been completed, including raising the hydraulic reservoirs - which was supposed to be done over a year ago.

My guess at what Bedey meant? I'm not really sure. Frankly, it sounds like something a crazy person would say, like pointing at the sky and saying, "What a lovely shade of green!" Maybe he slipped and let out an old talking point that referred to a previous draft of the report which only examined September conditions (the report shows a flurry of work last September, including site visits and document collections). But the report now is most definitely written in the present tense, not the past.

Lie #2: "Well, we're absolutely stronger today than we were pre-Katrina. This pump, this interim closure structure is an example of that."

Again I say, huh? While the gates themselves might be stronger than the outfall canal walls (emphasis on might, since the system has yet to be battle tested), everyone locally knows there's less pumping capacity at the gates than at the Sewerage & Water Board pumping stations. That's why there's more pumps being put in at 17th Street and London Avenue, and even then there won't be enough pumps to match the interior stations' outputs. So in a fundamental way, we're weaker today than we were pre-Katrina. We can't evacuate rainwater during a hurricane as fast as we could pre-Katrina.

It's easy to slip stuff like this past reporters that are only in New Orleans for the day.

By the way, what's this "we?" Bedey lives on the North Shore. He should really refer to "New Orleans" rather than grouping himself in with the city.

Lie #3: "The commitment of the administration of the United States and the Congress of the United States was to provide the 100-year level of protection for the people of this great community and of the nation."

I really don't like straying into political territory, but I have to just put a toe in here.

This is what President Bush said in Jackson Square on September 15, 2005:"City and parish officials in New Orleans, and state officials in Louisiana will have a large part in the engineering decisions to come. And the Army Corps of Engineers will work at their side to make the flood protection system stronger than it has ever been."

Now, if the flood protection system was supposed to be able to handle a 100 year storm (the basis for the FEMA flood maps), then wouldn't "stronger than it has ever been" refer to greater protection than a 100-year storm?

I know I'm being a little obtuse here. I recognize the realities of Congress, the Administration, budgeting, and politics have whittled the stated goals of improving New Orleans' flood protection down to, "We're going to give you what we said you had for 40 years." But it's still wrong.

There's more to come from this interview...


  • In December 2005, Fed Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell stated: "The federal government is committed to building the best levee system known in the world."

    It actually didn't take very long for them to whittle that "commitment" back down to the "what they said we had for 40 years) level.

    By Blogger oyster, at June 13, 2007 10:19 PM  

  • Matt, you should get an award for analysis of information put out by the powers-that-be to reporters, analysis that reporters don't bother to do.

    You should also get an award for tenacity.

    Frankly, it sounds like something a crazy person would say, like pointing at the sky and saying, "What a lovely shade of green!"

    I love that. They're not crazy; they're just lying. Par for the course. Don't it make you feel crazy sometimes?

    By Blogger June Butler, at June 14, 2007 10:52 AM  

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