Crime & Safety,
September 25th, 2012
By Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune
The Army Corps of Engineers is not liable for billions of dollars in flood damage in the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina that a lower court said resulted from the agency’s failure to maintain the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday. The corps was immune from damages because of a provision in the law governing suits against the federal government that protects an agency when it makes a discretionary decision.
In the case of the construction and maintenance of the MR-GO, the panel found that the corps may have abused its discretion or simply made errors in inadequately studying the effects of the shipping channel during environmental studies, in deciding against extra protection along the failed segment of St. Bernard levees, and in delaying a decision to “armor” segments of the levee and shoreline with grasses, each of those decisions were immune from lawsuit under the law.
The ruling reverses a March decision by the same panel that found U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. was correct a November 2009 decision in ruling that the failure to maintain the MR-GO was unrelated to flood control activities represented by the levees along its banks, and instead was the equivalent of a Navy captain failing to maintain a ship that crashes through a levee.