Yesterday, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling holding the US Army Corps of Engineers responsible for a portion of the flooding of the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 2009, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. ruled that the Corps' failure to properly maintain the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) was a cause in the breach of levees protecting Southeast Louisiana and that the Corps was liable for damages resulting from MRGO-caused flooding. On Friday, the Fifth Circuit upheld Duval's ruling.
While the Corps has immunity from suit for damages caused by failures of its flood control operations and structures under Section 3 of the 1928 Flood Control Act, Duval, and now the Fifth Circuit, correctly ruled that MRGO is not a flood control structure but a navigable waterway.
As MRGO's management and maintenance is the purview of the ACOE, the Corps is liable for damages resulting from the waterway's damages to the flood control structures protecting New Orleans and the Florida Parishes. If upheld by the Supreme Court (where the case will surely go), this liability may go up to $20 billion.
While the court did not overturn the exemption of liability spelled out in the 1928 law (an entirely proper decision), it correctly laid the flooding from MRGO at the feet of the ACOE, offering hope to thousands of Louisianians hoping for some just compensation for a disaster that never should have happened.
Times-Picayune link here