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Army Corps Found Negligent by Federal Judge

The failure of the Corps to recognize the destruction that the MRGO [Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet navigation canal] had caused and the potential hazard that it created is clearly negligent on the part of the Corps. Furthermore, the Corps not only knew, but admitted by 1988, that the MRGO threatened human life. (p. 105 [1])

The Corps’ lassitude and failure to fulfill its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions. The Corps’ negligence resulted in the wasting of millions of dollars in flood protection measures and billions of dollars in Congressional outlays to help this region recover from such a catastrophe. (p. 111)

MR-GO navigation canal appears at center (vertical); Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish at left. Detail of NASA photo.

MR-GO appears at center (vertical); Lower 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish at left. NASA photo.

Federal Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. has found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ poor maintenance of the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet navigation canal was responsible for some of the worst flooding of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward during and after Hurricane Katrina.

Mark Schleifstein of the [2]Times-Picayune [2] explains [2]: “Duval’s 156-page decision could result in the federal government paying $700,000 in damages to three people and a business in those areas, but also sets the stage for judgments worth billions of dollars against the government for damages suffered by as many as 100,000 other residents, businesses and local governments in those areas who filed claims with the corps after Katrina.”

The decision handed down in the U.S. District Court on Wednesday, November 18, is a major victory for homeowners and a breakthrough in establishing federal liability, vindicating what New Orleanians and others have been maintaining for the past four years: the worst of the catastrophe was the flooding that resulted from failures of the federally built flood protection infrastructure. But Judge Duval’s decision does not touch on the outflow canals at 17th Street, Orleans Avenue, or London Avenue; the civil action case “In re Katrina Canal Breaches” concerns only the MR-GO navigation canal.

Click here [1] for the judge’s 156-page “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.”

Timeline [3] of the case, “In re Katrina Canal Breaches.”

New York Times [4] article on the decision [4], including graphic showing the area of flooding after Hurricane Katrina and repairs to flood protection systems since the storm.

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