Critics uncomfortable with company chosen by Corp of Engineers to repair levees

Published 9 March 2006

Initial suggestions by investigators looking into for the reasons for the breach of the levees in New Orleans point to the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to appreciate to weak and shifting nature of the soil on which some portions of the levees were built. Never mind — the Corps is turning to a firm headed by its former commander to guide its massive repair of the New Orleans flood control system. Critics such as the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) charge that the commander in question played a prominent role in perpetuating what they regard as the misplaced priorities which contributed to the Katrina levee failures.

Under a three-year open-ended contract announced last week, the Corps will award hundreds of millions of dollars to a company staffed by some of the managers who were in positions of authority when critical levee work was done (or, as the critics would say, not done). The company, HNTB Federal Services Corporation, is led by retired General Robert Flowers, who was the Corps’ chief of engineers from 2000 until 2004, a period during which the Corps pursued navigation projects in New Orleans which critics charge came at the expense of flood and hurricane protection. In addition, Flowers was the commander of Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division from 1995 to 1997, which was directly responsible for construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of New Orleans flood and hurricane protection projects.

-read more in PEER Web site; and see HNTB Web site