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Rotten to the Corps.

You may recall how impressed I was by Michael Grunwald's series on the Corps of Engineers that ran in the Post six years ago. It was the kind of reporting on a government agency that this magazine has not only sought to publish itself, but to encourage others to do.

Recently, Grunwald reviewed what had happened to the example of Corps boondoggles that he had highlighted in his story. It was a $65 million flood-control project in Missouri that would "drain more acres of wetlands than all U.S. developers do in a typical year, but wouldn't stop flooding in the town it was meant to protect."

Did the Corps cancel this ill-advised project? Certainly not. The only change that has occurred is in the cost. It is now going to take $112 million to complete.

Grunwald wonders how the Corps has escaped the lion's share of culpability for Katrina. In the blame game, it ranks far behind FEMA. Yet FEMA didn't cause the flooding. The Corps did--"a useless Corps shipping canal intensified Katrina's surge ... Poorly designed Corps floodwalls collapsed just a few feet from an unnecessary $750 million Corps navigation project, even though the Corps had promoted development in dangerously low-lying New Orleans food plains and had helped destroy the vast marshes that once provided the city's natural flood protection."

The reason the Corps successfully dodged responsibility and resisted reform until accepting some blame in June is the iron triangle, composed of career Corps bureaucrats, the contractors who make millions in profits from Corps projects, however lunatic, and the members of Congress for whom the Corps projects offer some of the juiciest slices of pork available.
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Title Annotation:Michael Grunwald's corps of engineers
Author:Peters, Charles
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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