From: Cain Burdeau, Associated Press
Published December 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Scientists Rebut Big Easy Channel Report

NEW ORLEANS — A group of scientists accused the Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday of endangering the city's future by failing to take steps to immediately close a shipping channel blamed for widespread flooding during Hurricane Katrina.

The rebuke was aimed at a preliminary report the Corps sent Congress on Dec. 15, urging it to close the 76-mile Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, known as Mr. Go, but stopping short of saying when.

Locals have dubbed the channel a "hurricane highway" because it has been blamed for funneling storm surge into the city. The report denied that the channel contributed to flooding in the city's Lower Ninth Ward and suburban St. Bernard Parish.

But in a letter to congressional members, the scientists called the channel "a ticking time bomb."

At a news conference Thursday, the scientists called for building barriers to keep storm waves from entering "the funnel." They also said the Corps report omitted key details.

Some residents are suing the Corps, seeking damages over flooding they contend was caused by the channel.

"The Corps has been working on this channel for 54 years and they have egg on their face, and it's hard to admit," said Mark Madary, a St. Bernard councilman.

A Corps official said the agency's recommendations were "consistent with providing the best solution for the public."

"There are risks for living in the New Orleans area, and the MRGO does not contribute significantly to that risk, and people need to understand that," said Tom Podany, who worked on the report. "This idea that it served as this kind of highway is wrong."

The letter was signed by G. Paul Kemp, a Louisiana State University engineer; Ivor van Heerden, a levee expert and author; John Day, a coastal scientist; Sherwood Gagliano, who has pioneered studies on coastal Louisiana; and Robert Bea, a levee expert from the University of California, Berkeley.

Source: Associated Press

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