In settling the area of New Orleans, the French built on high ground with a natural levee made of silt from the river. The French built levees to protect from river flooding. Landowners continued to build levees. The coastal swamp acted as a natural buffer against storms. With recurrent flooding on the Mississippi, Congress created the Mississippi River Commission. The Army Corps of Engineers were put in control.
The Corps did not really have any flood experience and decided levees would be enough to control the river. Levees contributed to the rise of the river. Flooding continued over the decades on numerous occasions. In 1927 flooding changed New Orleans forever. Lives were lost, levees were breached, crops were destroyed and industry and transportation came to a halt.
In preparing for Mississippi River flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers robbed the region of natural defenses against storm surges. Washington lawmakers knew of the hurricane threat to Louisiana. It was nothing new. Short term solutions were chosen because of their immediate payoff. By not choosing a long term strategy the city was made more vulnerable when Hurricane Katrina hit.
History shows a pattern of how flooding problems were handled. No one analyzed the process or reviewed outcomes to find a better way to deal with the issues. The Flood Control Act of 1928 pledged the federal government to an explicit program of flood control. The Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) Project was the nation's first comprehensive flood control and navigation act.
“A wise policy maker completely expects that his policies will achieve only part of what he hopes and at the same time will produce unanticipated consequences he would have proffered to avoid.” Contending interest groups compete for influence over policy issues. (Stillman, 2010 pg.214)
The Corps used the branch method for decision making. The objective was set but became compromised with Congressional influence. Many of the Corps of Engineers' civil works projects have been characterized as being riddled with pork barrel money and resources such as the New Madrid Floodway Project and the New Orleans flood protection. They selected from the choices at hand and took incremental steps to achieve the objective. It is suggested that projects have been justified based on flawed analyses during the planning phase. Administrators decided what they thought was the most important issue and addressed it. The policy did not include consideration of how the present decisions would affect the...