Opinion
School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor

Blame Federal Infrastructure Failures, Not Katrina, for New Orleans Flooding

September 15, 2015 1 min read

To the Editor:

Regarding the blog post “New Orleans Education 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina in Photos”: The post begins, “August 29th marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history that also kicked off arguably one of the biggest experiments in modern-day public education.” The fact of the matter, to my mind, is that the flooding of New Orleans was overwhelmingly the fault of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for designing and building the levee system—not the hurricane itself.

An irregular, flawed federal funding process led to a piecemeal levee system that included some low-cost solutions that compromised the quality, safety, and reliability of the designs, according to a 2007 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel.

Had there been no design defects present in the levees in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina would have made much less news and would not now suffer the fate of being referenced only as a terrible “natural” disaster. Rather, it would be labeled a terrible “engineering” disaster. It is my hope, as a former resident of New Orleans, that with wider dissemination of correct information, blame for the city’s flooding will eventually shift from nature to the failed infrastructure.

William Ferguson

Los Angeles, Calif.

To the Editor:

Those teachers referenced in your blog post “New Orleans Education 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina in Photos” would not have been fired had it not been for the flood. In New Orleans, the storm surge overtopped levees bordering canals, but also knocked down crucial sections of walls without overtopping. Please stop tormenting us New Orleanians by nonchalantly giving all the credit for our losses to “Katrina.”

Ray Broussard

New Orleans, La.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 2015 edition of Education Week as Blame Federal Infrastructure Failures, Not Katrina, for New Orleans Flooding

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