New York Times: Panel Approves $8 Billion in Aid for Louisiana



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New York Times: Panel Approves $8 Billion in Aid for Louisiana

By Robert Pear

WASHINGTON, June 7 — House and Senate negotiators said Wednesday that they had tentatively agreed to provide more than $8 billion to Louisiana  for an ambitious program to build housing and repair levees damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"We are just thrilled," said Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who has been seeking such aid for months.

The money is included in an emergency spending bill that also provides more than $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A House-Senate conference committee worked out compromises on most issues, with the expectation that the two chambers could clear the legislation for President Bush in a week or less.



New York Times: Go Southeast, Young Man

By WALTER ISAACSON

New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS is a tale of two cities these days. In areas that were smashed and then sat for weeks underwater when the levees broke, the devastation still stretches for miles and the valiant cleanup efforts seem as daunting as mopping sand from a beach. But the older areas that make the town famous, built on higher ground along the river, are humming again. From Tulane University through the Garden District to the business district and the French Quarter, people are back at work while chefs and musicians ply their wondrous magic.

It is also a city of two moods. The difficulties of recovery have left jangled nerves, but there is also a sense of opportunity. As Tulane's president, Scott S. Cowen, said at a conference cosponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, for anyone with ambition and civic spirit, there is no better place to be, nor better time to be there, than New Orleans now. And on the plane ride back from one of his 11 trips there, President Bush said that if he were young and looking to make his mark or some money, he would move to New Orleans.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Lakes high and dry for wildlife?

Georgia officials fear water supplies will be compromised to help endangered fish

By STACY SHELTON, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia officials say they are alarmed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is draining too much water out of Lake Lanier — threatening water shortages as dry summer conditions loom — to protect a trio of endangered species in a Florida river more than 250 miles downstream.

The efforts on behalf of the prehistoric Gulf sturgeon and two freshwater mussel species could aggravate already serious rainfall deficits, with the Atlanta region already 4 inches below normal rain amounts, state officials contend. The water drawdown controversy is the latest development in a decades-old legal fight between Georgia and its neighbors Florida and Alabama over access to water from the Chattahoochee River.

And it underscores concerns over metro Atlanta's dependence on Lanier and its river. Even when there is plenty of rain, state and regional officials say this region will need to pull an increasing amount of water out of the Etowah River basin that runs from northwest Georgia into Alabama.

Miami Herald: Leaky dike a concern for storm season

Federal, state and local officials are working to devise an evacuation plan in case the dike around Lake Okeechobee ruptures during a major hurricane.

BY PHIL LONG

WEST PALM BEACH - State and local emergency managers and federal officials hustled Wednesday to devise a sweeping plan for the possible evacuation of 44,000 people living around the south end of Lake Okeechobee, amid concerns that the leaky dike system could be breached during a major hurricane.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency pledged more than $3.5 million worth of help, officials said during a first-of-its-kind ''summit'' at the Palm Beach Convention Center.

''We are ahead of schedule on all actions,'' Charles Tear, director of emergency management for Palm Beach County, said at the end of the meeting.

Palm Beach Post: Sand problems halt Lake O dike repairs

By Robert P. King, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Some pesky sand has halted the $26 million repair job that's supposed to help make the Herbert Hoover Dike safe for future generations.

A persistent problem with sand contamination means workers probably will have to tear out about 6,000 feet of repair work they have done since December near Port Mayaca, said Steve Duba, dam safety officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The corps stopped the work in recent weeks and is considering other methods of embedding a 36-foot-tall, 2-foot-thick concrete wall inside and under the leaky earthen dike, Duba said Wednesday. The project had been scheduled to be finished in March and was supposed to be the first stage of a grander, $300 million upgrade of the entire 143-mile-long dike.

"We call it a slowdown," corps spokeswoman Nanciann Regalado said. "I can't tell you how much the project will be delayed at this point. I can't tell you how much the extra costs will be."



Cape Cod Times: Cape harbors hurt as funds for Corps dredging dry up

By DOUG FRASER, STAFF WRITER

CHATHAM - Harwich Harbor Master Tom Leach passed on a tour of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge Currituck yesterday.

Call it dredge envy.

Chatham ended up as the only harbor on the Cape to be dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers this year.

U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., whose district includes Cape Cod, was in Chatham yesterday and told Leach what he already knew - federal money to dredge small harbors such as Saquatucket in Harwich was virtually nonexistent. And there is little chance of relief in the future, given an $8 trillion national debt, the massive amounts being spent on Iraq and the drain of relief money flowing down south to rebuild after Katrina.



Washington Post Editorial: Katrina's Unlearned Lessons

A government agency admits error, and Congress wants to reward it.

LAST WEEK the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admitted responsibility for much of the destruction of New Orleans. It was not true, as the Corps initially had claimed, that its defenses failed because Congress had authorized only Category 3 protection, with the result that Hurricane Katrina overtopped the city's floodwalls. Rather, Katrina was no stronger than a Category 2 storm by the time it came ashore, and many of the floodwalls let water in because they collapsed, not because they weren't high enough. As the Corps' own inquiry found, the agency committed numerous mistakes of design: Its network of pumps, walls and levees was "a system in name only"; it failed to take into account the gradual sinking of the local soil; it closed its ears when people pointed out these problems. The result was a national tragedy.



Palm Beach Post: Consultant: Dike not as safe as Army Corps suggests

By Robert P. King, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Public statements from the Army Corps of Engineers are giving residents a false sense of safety about the Herbert Hoover Dike, a state-hired consultant complained this morning.

Some of the corps' statements give the impression that the dike is safe until the lake rises to 21 feet above sea level, engineering consultant Les Bromwell said today. The lake hasn't reached that height since before the dike was built in the 1930s.

In fact, the corps calculated in a 1999 report that the dike has a 10.7 percent chance of failing when water levels rise to as little as 17 feet above sea level.

At 18 feet above sea level - a level the lake last saw in October 2004 - the chance of failure is 45 percent, according to that report. It reaches 100 percent at 21 feet above sea level. (As of today, the lake is at 12.59 feet.)



Associated Press: New Protections Proposed for Mussels

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) -- In response to a lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating 1,200 miles of rivers and streams in Alabama, Florida and Georgia as critical habitat for seven federally protected mussel species.

The waterways include portions of Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system in all three states, the Ochlocknee River in Georgia and Florida and the Econfina Creek and Suwannee River in Florida.

Some scientists rank mussels as the nation's most threatened natural resource. Of the 300 species found in the United States, most live in the Southeast. American Indians ate them and used them to make tools and jewelry, and their shells were a major source of buttons from about 1890 until plastic buttons came along in the 1950s.



Christian Science Monitor: Ports go deep to dock bigger ships

In a bid to stay competitive, Boston and other ports consider plans to dredge 50-foot channels.

By Chris Gaylord | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

Lifting anchor in New York, the Dahe will steam toward Boston Harbor Wednesday night. While almost three football fields long and capable of holding 3,800 20-foot metal containers, this 12-year-old Chinese container ship is relatively small compared with today's high-tech transports. But Boston's port can't receive those bigger boats, so the Dahe will have to suffice.

As export economies continue to expand in the Far East to supply hungry American consumers, shipping companies are shifting to vessels three times larger than the Dahe. These new behemoth freighters are forcing many US ports to decide whether to spend millions on improvements - like deeper harbors and new terminals - or watch the next generation of ships pass them by.



Associated Press: Talk Swirls Over Great Lakes Windmills

ALGOMA, Wis. (AP) -- A little red lighthouse. Boardwalks. The blue-green waters of Lake Michigan stretching to the horizon. It's just another pretty-as-a-postcard view on the shores of this sleepy town of 5,700 a half-hour east of Green Bay. But how long the unspoiled vista in Algoma and in other communities along the Great Lakes will last is anybody's guess.

Government and industry officials are set to meet in Madison and Toledo, Ohio, this month to talk about the prospects for installing giant electricity-generating windmills out in the Great Lakes.

Advocates say offshore wind turbines would be an efficient means of producing power. Opponents fear the windmills would harm the lakes' natural beauty and hurt tourism and fishing.



GovExec.com: OPM pushes nontraditional career patterns

By Karen Rutzick

Federal agencies now are being required to rethink the traditional 9-to-5, office desk, 30-year careers that are emblematic of government service.

By Jan. 1, 2007, agencies will be expected to pinpoint and report on jobs that are conducive to unconventional schedules, telecommuting, shorter tenures and other modern career patterns. The Office of Personnel Management, the agency responsible for guiding human resources practices in government, formally kicked off this initiative Tuesday.



New Orleans Times-Picayune: Federal agency enters debate over landfill

Wildlife Service official calls for liner, limits at Chef Menteur site

By Gordon Russell, Staff writer

In a letter that echoes many of the concerns about a new landfill voiced by community and environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked the Corps of Engineers to either require that a liner be installed at the Chef Menteur Landfill or to greatly restrict what can be dumped at the eastern New Orleans site.

The letter, signed by Russell Watson, supervisor of the service's Louisiana field office, is significant both in what it says and who is saying it. It seems likely to add more grist to the long-running debate over whether the hastily permitted landfill poses a hazard to the nearby community as well as the adjacent Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.



NBC News: Is Katrina cleanup a fleecing of America?

Congress scrutinizes debris removal contracts for waste

By Lisa Myers & the NBC Investigative Unit

WASHINGTON - The collection, hauling and smashing of debris in Louisiana and Mississippi resulting from Hurricane Katrina is still a daily ritual that has already cost taxpayers almost $2.5 billion. But government investigators and those closest to the cleanup now say hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars may have been wasted.

Workers, contractors and government investigators say the large size of the contracts and the multiple tiers of subcontractors have pushed up the cost of the cleanup while slowing down the pace of the operation.



USACE

Associated Press: Plan to Raise Missouri River Draws Fire

BROWNVILLE, Neb. (AP) -- The massive old steamboat is on stilts now, resting on the shore about 100 feet from the river it helped reshape.

The Capt. Meriwether Lewis and three others like it shaved about 240 miles off the roughly 2,600-mile Missouri River, the nation's longest, and left a straighter, deeper waterway that is easier to navigate.

But unintended consequences of the straightening -- and the construction of large dams in Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska -- have affected not only the river but also the lives of those around it.

Reshaping the river to make it easier to navigate made it less hospitable to three animals on the federal endangered species list, including an ancient fish called the pallid sturgeon.

Associated Press: Army Corps of Engineers cites need for new locks

PADUCAH, Ky. An Army Corps of Engineers study has found that a quarter of the locks on the Ohio River are too old.

The agency is recommending that two lock projects on the Ohio River be completed soon.

Officials say delays at Olmstead Locks and Dam in southern Illinois and Kentucky Lock in far western Kentucky are plaguing shipping progress.

When the projects are complete, both locks will have 12-hundred-foot chambers allowing tows to pass through in one piece. Olmstead's lock is finished, but the dam work there won't be done until 2013 at the earliest.

According to an Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman, the extensive study also provides a roadmap to keep the lock system running through the year 2070.

A public meeting is scheduled for June 27th in Metropolis, Illinois to allow people to discuss the study.

Time: Katrina Mea Culpa

By JEREMY CAPLAN

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a 6,113-page report last week to explain why its hurricane-protection system in Louisiana failed during Katrina. In brief, here's what it said:

Why did the levee system fail? The Corps's system suffered from faulty design that was based on outdated scientific data. The network of canals and levees, built piecemeal over 40 years, was constructed to withstand relatively weak hurricanes, not the Katrina-size monsters that scientists had more recently warned of.



New Orleans Times-Picayune: East of the Harvey Canal, people are rattled by slow progress in plugging its gaps

By Meghan Gordon, West Bank bureau

A symbol of New Orleans' inadequate hurricane protection, the 17th Street Canal stays bathed in light while crews work around the clock to close the drainage outlet before the next storm surge fills Lake Pontchartrain.

Across the Mississippi River, another waterway remains just as vulnerable to a hurricane's monster tide. Yet owners of homes and businesses east of the Harvey Canal must endure another nerve-wracking hurricane season before the precarious hole in the West Bank's federal levee system is plugged.

"The path of least resistance is right here," Peggy Guthrie said from her living room on Vulcan Drive in Harvey, a home that unmanned pumps allowed to soak with 2 feet of Hurricane Katrina's rain. "We're the sacrificial lamb for Jefferson Parish."

Congress allocated $147.6 million in December to speed completion of a sector gate across the Harvey Canal and a 4 1/2-mile levee southeast of the floodgate, which would complete the West Bank's first end-to-end wall of hurricane protection. Although the floodgate is expected to be ready in August, the Army Corps of Engineers has yet to acquire the land for the levee and doesn't expect to finish the wall until September 2007.



Commentary

New Orleans Times-Picayune Editorial: Fixing the corps

The commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talked Thursday about taking responsibility for the deadly failure of the New Orleans area's flood protection system during Hurricane Katrina.

"This has been sobering for us, because for the first time the corps has had to stand up and say we had a catastrophic failure with one of our projects," Lt. Gen. Carl Strock said.

That is as much of an admission of guilt as the corps is likely to offer for lethal flooding, which was caused by the failure of canal floodwalls in New Orleans during Katrina.

The corps' Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force issued a 6,600-page interim report Thursday that outlines the engineering flaws, maintenance lapses and outdated data that led to the canal breaches that flooded much of New Orleans during Katrina.

But the task force, which was impaneled by the corps, brushed off the question of negligence. "There was no evidence of government or contractor negligence or malfeasance," the report declares with no explanation of how the task force reached that conclusion.



Cleveland Pain Dealer Editorial: Corps incompetencies

It is a document as remarkable for its self-accusatory candor as for its detailing of serial failure. In nearly 7,000 pages, the Army Corps of Engineers laid before the world last week its searing self-examination of how a hurricane for which the corps had 40 years to prepare was able to ravage New Orleans.

Full editorial:

Jackson Clarion-Ledger Editorial: Katrina: Corps thrown back in the briar patch

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has taken a drumming for inadequacies in keeping levees in shape around New Orleans that could have prevented massive flooding from Hurricane Katrina.

The Corps has admitted its failures, saying "the system did not perform as a system" and "was a system in name only."

But anyone who believes the Corps will in any way be disciplined for its lapses - the logical outcome of an admission of failure - may as well be counting on The Tooth Fairy to make things right.

Like ol' Brer Rabbit, by admitting guilt, the Corps is being tossed right back into the briar patch - to spend more money.

Macon (GA) Telegraph Editorial: Corps ‘fesses up, but has it learned hard lessons?

Residents of New Orleans on August 29, 2005 must be more bewildered now than ever. The Army Corps of Engineers, the arm of the government responsible for designing and constructing the levee system, has admitted in a huge report that it totally failed to do its job of protected the city from Lake Pontchartrain.

This 6,113-page report further explains the level of apparent negligence in all areas of government dealing with the Katrina disaster.

The report states the levees were bound to breach:

• Because the hurricane model the corps used to design the levee system was outmoded and the corps failed to update it.

• The corps didn't adjust its engineering to take in account the soil condition where the levees were built. It's sinking, lowering the height of the levees by as much as three feet in some places.

• Design flaws allowed erosion on the levee tops and back sides that lead to failures.

• Water didn't have to top the levees to cause failure. I-walls failed because of land erosion.



New Orleans Times-Picayune Editorial: Beyond batteries and water

New Orleans area residents are far more aware of their vulnerability at the start of this hurricane season than they've been in the past, whether they're living in a house that made it through Katrina unscathed or in a trailer standing in front of a flood-ruined home.

Despite efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bring the area's battered hurricane protection system back to pre-Katrina strength by June 1, everything isn't in place. Floodgates and interim pumps at the 17th Street and London Avenue canals won't be finished until July. The corps said this week that it won't be able to provide maximum pumping capacity at those locations until Oct. 31 or even later -- next year.

Ideally, everything broken by Katrina would be fixed before we face another threat. But even if that had been accomplished, there could be other weak spots -- ones that won't be revealed until another powerful storm hits.



Iraq/Afghanistan

New York Times: Tough Job In A War Zone: Keeping Contractors Honest

By James Glanz

SOUTHERN DHI QAR PROVINCE, Iraq — Stuart W. Bowen Jr. was looking puffy and exhausted after three days of fighting an intestinal bug he had picked up in Baghdad. Now, wearing a flak vest in 100-degree heat, he was almost two hours into his inspection of an American-financed project to build a prison on a bleak and cloudless patch of desert in southern Iraq.

But as the inspector general for the United States' reconstruction effort in Iraq, Mr. Bowen, 48, was trying to extract a few more nuggets of information from this dusty outpost near Nasiriya. His face flushed and his hair matted to his scalp with sweat, he wanted to know why the Parsons Corporation, a construction giant that he has repeatedly excoriated, had left just two American contractors to oversee 800 Iraqi workers swarming the site.

"We've got 2 contractors and 10 security guards," said Mr. Bowen with a sidelong glance at the heavily armed contingent trailing him through the project, which he had already discovered was months behind schedule and would be less than 20 percent the size called for in the original design. His office has also criticized what it considers overblown security fears at some sites.

New York Times: Attacks on Iraq Oil Industry Aid Vast Smuggling Scheme

By James Glanz and Robert F. Worth

 BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 3 — The sabotage attacks that have crippled Iraq's oil pipelines and refineries for the past three years are now being used to aid a vast smuggling network that is costing the Iraqi government billions of dollars a year, senior Iraqi and American officials here say.

Once thought to be only a tool for insurgents to undermine the government, the pipeline attacks have evolved into a lucrative moneymaking scheme for insurgents and enterprising criminal gangs alike. Ali Al Alak, the inspector general for the Oil Ministry, said the attacks are now orchestrated by both groups to force the government to import and distribute as much fuel as possible using thousands of tanker trucks.

In turn, the insurgents and criminal gangs — distinguishing among them has become increasingly problematic — have transformed the trucking trade into a potent tool for smuggling.

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