Group Questions Integrity of Army Corps' Levee Report

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A recent press release by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) administration accompanying a report entitled New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why? contains 5 falsehoods, the most obvious being the claim that 686 of the 1,118 deaths in New Orleans would have happened even if the levees had held when in fact, the report itself cited that nearly two-thirds of deaths would have been avoided if the levees had held. The language of the ASCE's press release was also misleading and vague regarding mistakes made by the Corps of Engineers.

The oldest engineering society in America, entrusted in November 2005 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to peer review the Corps-sponsored levee investigation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has been found to have released false information about the flooding in an apparent attempt to understate and minimize the Army Corps' role in the disaster, according to the group's spokesperson.
(http://pubs.asce.org/magazines/ascenews/2007/Issue_03-07/news2.htm)

A June 1, 2007 press release by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) administration accompanying a report entitled New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why? contains 5 falsehoods, the most obvious being the claim that 686 of the 1,118 deaths in New Orleans would have happened even if the levees had held when in fact, the report itself cited that nearly two-thirds of deaths would have been avoided if the levees had held. Further, the language of the ASCE's press release was consistently misleading and vague regarding mistakes made by the Corps of Engineers.
(http://www.asce.org/static/hurricane/whitehouse.cfm)

The potential ramifications are serious since the Army Corps, the White House and even Congress frequently hold out the ASCE's peer review of the Corps-sponsored Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce (IPET) as assurance that the results of that evaluation are robust, credible and defensible.

Meanwhile, the Corps is using the findings of the IPET to spend $7.1 billion rebuilding Greater New Orleans' flood protection system.

The New Orleans community immediately cried foul, including the Times Picayune which wrote a stinging rebuke in a June 19, 2007 editorial.
(http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/editorials/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1182230785208490.xml&coll=1)

Looking for explanations, local leaders and civil engineers called upon Dr. William F. Marcuson III President of the ASCE, and Larry Roth Executive Deputy Director. After many discussions, some heated, key officials of the ASCE on July 13 decided to meet in New Orleans with local ASCE members and local leaders including the Founder of Levees.Org, a New Orleans-based flood protection advocacy group.

At the August 30, 2007 meeting at the Lakeway Marriott, the group requested that the ASCE remove the error filled release from the ASCE website and retract the erroneous press release and issue a new and accurate one. The ASCE quietly removed the offending press release from their website, but regarding a formal retraction, that answer finally came on September 19 in a phone conversation with Dr. Marcuson and two members of Levees.Org. The answer was negative.

"This press release has caused the American public and the press to believe things that are simply not true," says HJ Bosworth Jr, P.E. and Research Director of Levees.Org. "To properly provide for the public safety, we believe that the ASCE has the obligation to provide a clear and formal retraction to the erroneous information contained in the June 1 press release."
(http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fhttp://www.mvn.usace.army.mil%2Fpao%2FRELEASES%2FASCE_Press_Release_070601.pdf&ei=pX_tRu-sHJH2ecCNzcgG&usg=AFQjCNGbzEcUKz6B87zZ4ArXsQCOJHaP_A&sig2=qjmmHrZqdCuLC_k3iWroAw)

"This is yet another reason to demand the 8/29 Investigation, an independent comprehensive analysis of the flood protection failures in metro New Orleans, says Sandy Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director of Levees.Org. "South Louisiana deserves it, and the nation's taxpayers deserve it, too."
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/05/AR2007020501233.html)

Senator Mary Landrieu D-LA tried unsuccessfully to attach the legislation to the Water Resources Development Act due to what she described as partisan objection, but has pledged to continue pushing for its passage.
(http://landrieu.senate.gov/~landrieu/releases/07/2007809A12.html)

Levees.Org, is a non sectarian non partisan grassroots group formed after Katrina whose mission is education that metro New Orleans was destroyed primarily by bad engineering and not bad weather. The group numbers over 16,200 and their website http://www.levees.org has hosted over 122,000 unique visitors.

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