Incompetence or criminal negligence?

An interesting issue, these floods and one which starkly illustrates the conservative, left-liberal divide.

First the facts, as stated by both sides:

Some sixty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began the process of taming the Missouri by constructing a series of six dams. The idea was simple: massive dams at the top moderating flow to the smaller dams below, generating electricity while providing desperately needed control of the river’s devastating floods.

The stable flow of water allowed for the construction of the concrete and earthen levees that protect more than 10 million people who reside and work within the river’s reach. It allowed millions of acres of floodplain to become useful for farming and development. In fact, these uses were encouraged by our government, which took credit for the resulting economic boom. By nearly all measures, the project was a great success.

The left-liberals would modify “by nearly all measures” to say “not by environmental measures”.

But after about thirty years of operation, as the environmentalist movement gained strength throughout the seventies and eighties, the Corps received a great deal of pressure to include some specific environmental concerns into their MWCM (Master Water Control Manual, the “bible” for the operation of the dam system). Preservation of habitat for at-risk bird and fish populations soon became a hot issue among the burgeoning environmental lobby. The pressure to satisfy the demands of these groups grew exponentially as politicians eagerly traded their common sense for “green” political support.

An idea to restore the nation’s rivers to a natural (pre-dam) state swept through the environmental movement and their allies. Adherents enlisted the aid of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), asking for an updated “Biological Opinion” from the FWS that would make ecosystem restoration an “authorized purpose” of the dam system. The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.

Congress created a committee to advise the Corps on how best to balance these competing priorities. The Missouri River Recovery and Implementation Committee has seventy members. Only four represent interests other than environmentalism. The recommendations of the committee, as one might expect, have been somewhat less than evenhanded.

The environmental lobby says that these floodplains were complex ecosystems before man started messing with them and should revert to that state.

Neo-libertarian:

My Native American ancestors had a saying, “Water runs between two hills.” Five words, five words that say everything you need to know about the impact of natural runoff on habitation. All that money spent on the levee’s which are failing or simply functions as dams to keep flooding from returning to the river channel was, is and will continue to be wasted. Don’t build in the floodplain. Those that are destroyed by flooding (and this is me by the way, I am not being clairvoyant or hypocritical, just one of the eminent domain refugees) must not be allowed to rebuild, nature will provide the zoning.

At first sight, a reasonable point but the problem is, for Americans and for us, that the lunacy offered as reasoning by the environmental agenda drivers overwhelms any sort of common sense and reasonable requests by the milder people, e.g. genuine scientists, not to ignore the environmental factors.

In fact, many of us will not countenance anything from the agenda-driving loons, e.g. in Prodicus’s reaction to Huhne and the windmilling [and I’m inclined to agree]:

‘Green dream needs full government support’

Says the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England of which I am a member although maybe not for much longer. They may go the way of Christian Aid in being crossed off my charity list. The faintest hint of hypocritical greenfaking, let alone a whiff of watermelon, tends to alienate my support faster than the advocacy of eating children.

So, in the case of the flooding, here was the rub – either leave the Missouri-Mississippi to flood naturally, with huge amounts of water … or else to use the dam system to allow millions of acres to be claimed for agriculture and the rivers themselves for boating recreation. Bear in mind that the dam system is 60 years old already, apparently begun by Democrats.

What actually did happen?

The Corps began to utilize the dam system to mimic the previous flow cycles of the original river, holding back large amounts of water upstream during the winter and early spring in order to release them rapidly as a “spring pulse.” The water flows would then be restricted to facilitate a summer drawdown of stream levels. This new policy was highly disruptive to barge traffic and caused frequent localized flooding, but a multi-year drought masked the full impact of the dangerous risks the Corps was taking.

The article speaks of this “recklessly endangering millions of residents downstream”. And:

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt agrees, calling the management plan “flawed” and “poorly thought out.” Sen. Blunt characterized the current flooding as “entirely preventable” and told reporters that he intends to force changes to the plan.

Naturally, the environmentalists disagree:

Greg Pavelka, a wildlife biologist with the Corps of Engineers in Yankton, SD, told the Seattle Times that this event will leave the river in a “much more natural state than it has seen in decades,” describing the epic flooding as a “prolonged headache for small towns and farmers along its path, but a boon for endangered species.” He went on to say, “The former function of the river is being restored in this one-year event. In the short term, it could be detrimental, but in the long term it could be very beneficial.”

Up to that point, possibly you may have had and certainly I had some sympathy for the wildlife on the plains and wetlands – birds etc. – but this man’s statement above is awesome in its unconcern for Man and in the light of the material on the Frankfurt School I’ve just been wading through, the tone of Pavelka certainly rings a bell and raises a red flag.

He seems quite unconcerned for the people who have grown up in the shadow of the dams and one commenter puts it nicely.

Desertdog:

This cool and detached attitude [of Greg Pavelka] toward the plight of the towns and farmers downstream seems almost pathological to me. His barely concealed excitement about the flooding to restore the former function of the river demonstrates his complete lack of perspective regarding the human tragedy. Unfortunately most of the people who work in government agencies such as the Dept. of Interior, Forest Service, FWS, and the EPA to mention a few, have little regard for any human inconvenience (or tragedy in this case) their policies might cause. I agree with the author that this is criminal negligence

Reaction from people actually down there and from others of a conservative bent has, of course, been predictable:

Texan59:

Let’s see – fish are more important than people – got it. Flood thousands of acres of tillable farmland for the planting season. Half the midwest is underwater with millions of acres not planted already – got it. Grain prices already at historically high levels, so, grain prices to go even higher. Good plan.

Did the Corps know before the event?

There’s evidence the Corps actually knew what was going down, so we have the classic case, with the PTB, that we’ve been arguing with so many other issues, especially here in the UK – was it ignorance and incompetence or was it malice aforethought?

At the time of this writing, the Corps is scrambling for political cover, repeatedly denying that it had any advance warning of the potential for this catastrophe. The official word is that everything was just fine until unexpectedly heavy spring rains pushed the system past the tipping point.

On February 3, 2011, a series of e-mails from Ft. Pierre SD Director of Public Works Brad Lawrence sounded the alarm loud and clear. In correspondence to the headquarters of the American Water Works Association in Washington, D.C., Lawrence warned that “the Corps of Engineers has failed thus far to evacuate enough water from the main stem reservoirs to meet normal runoff conditions. This year’s runoff will be anything but normal.”

In the same e-mail, he describes the consequences of the Corps failure to act as a “flood of biblical proportions.” His e-mails were forwarded from Washington, D.C. to state emergency response coordinators nationwide. The Corps headquarters in Omaha, NE which is responsible for the Missouri river system, claims they heard no such warning from Lawrence or anyone else. Considering the wide distribution of this correspondence, and the likely reactions from officials in endangered states, their denials strain credulity.

Now, let’s say the Corps was grossly incompetent and neither received any emails nor decided to check out the situation the length and breadth of the dam system within their remit – that constitutes criminal incompetence because there were millions of lives at stake, not to mention people’s livelihoods. They might not like the system but you don’t just flood because you feel everything should be “really natural like”.

In fact, that could be seen as hovering somewhere between manslaughter and murder.

Into this heady mix, in an attempt to understand the mindset of these people, I go back, yet again, to the spiritual pagan Gaia aspect to the whole thing and it’s necessary, in order to understand this mindset, to also understand just how far gone these people are in all this Shamballa/Gaia business.

We start to get into people like Maurice Strong:

In 1992, [he was] chairman of the United Nation’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro He was co-chairman of the Council of the World Economic Forum, became a member of the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission), found time to serve as president of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, on the executive committee of the Society for International Development, and as an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund. Above all, he served on the Commission on Global Governance. Friends include:

Vice President Al Gore [of course], World Bank President James Wolfensohn, formerly on the Rockefeller Foundation Board and currently on the Population Council Board; he was Al Gore’s favored candidate for the World Bank position, James Gustave Speth, head of the Carter Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality, crafter of the doomladen Global 2000 report, member of the Clinton – Gore transition team; he now heads the UN Development Program, Shridath Ramphal, formerly Secretary General of the (British) Commonwealth, now Co-Chairman of the Commission on Global Governance, Jonathan Lash, President of the World Resources Institute –which works closely with the World Bank, the UN Environment Program, and the UN Development Program — and Co-Chairman of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, Ingvar Carlsson, former Swedish prime minister and Co-Chairman of the Commission on Global Governance and of course – Kofi Annan.

Strong was also involved with the World Service Initiative and photographed with a World Service Initiative trip to Findhorn, the New Age Vatican.

Here are their principles, as stated by them:

The purpose of the World Service Intergroup is to generate a focused, conscious and deliberate intergroup effort to specifically assist the Externalization of the Hierarchy and the Reappearance of the Christ.

I kid you not and that is not the Christian Christ, by the way – it’s the other fella.

It gets worse. Gordon Davidson and Corrine McLaughlin, who set up the WSI in Washington, D.C. in 1995 were also instrumental in setting up the Valdez Principles, committing corporate America to the Gorean Eco principles now in vogue today. Here is his mindset:

The Shamballa force is in reality Life itself; and Life is a loving synthesis in action. We also used the Six Laws and Principles of the New Age to lead us towards creating a vision of how these principles might create patterns for the New Civilization humanity will be constructing over the next 2500 years.

Isn’t that nice? Key players in the environmental movement therefore have an occult angle influencing it which sets it apart from the mindset of most people who see themselves as at least partly green. Shamballa force would seem to have little to do with recycling your bottles and using eco-friendly lamps and yet the connection is forced at high levels of society.

Now, why should that concern the residents on the floodplains? Is it necessary to spell it out? Only four of the governing members of the Corps are not environmentalists and let me ask a question – are those at the top likely to be the committed, eco-loon, Gorean type or the more mild-mannered conservationist type, looking after a zoo or a national park?

And what, therefore, is going to happen?

Floodgates that have not been opened in more than fifty years are in full operation, discharging water at a rate of 150,000 cubic feet per second toward millions of Americans downstream.

This is a mind-boggling rate of release. Consider that 150,000 cubic feet of water would fill a football field instantly to a depth of four feet. This amount of water, being released every second, will continue unabated for the next several months.

The levees that protect the cities and towns downstream were constructed to handle the flow rates promised at the time of the dam’s construction.

None of these levees have ever been tested at these levels, yet they must hold back millions of acre-feet of floodwater for the entire summer without failing. In the flooding of 1993, more than a thousand levees failed. This year’s event will be many orders of magnitude greater.

Now this needs to be balanced out and reasonable people would wish to hear the other side of it too:

GoldwaterLibertarian:

There are a lot of comments about how this was caused by the “green environmentalist”. They are further down the list of possible criminals in this flooding action than anyone else.

The barge industry has been one of the most vocal, and highest donating “lobbying group” to make sure and have a river channel high enough for barge traffic all summer long. That requires holding back massive amounts of water to maintain a navigable Missouri River channel for the summer.

Also what about all of the states above Nebraska and Iowa that have wanted and got court orders to keep the reservoirs high enough for recreational purposes. They continue to advertise this summer that the lakes are wonderful and open this year.

Throughout all of the flooding no one has brought up that after 60 years of damns on the river the reservoir are silting in. How much of their holding capacity has been diminished by the simple fact that they are filling up with mud.

The environmental effect of wildlife on the river is to have a rive surge of increased flow for only 2 days. That was canceled this year and last year.

… and from Positron:

Would the upstream states have tolerated the emptying of the storage areas in February or March–the ACE certainly could not have dumped significant water into the Mississippi basin once the substantial flooding risk became apparent down the Mississippi.

I am somewhat surprised that the author says little or nothing about the demands that the upstream states put on the ACE to retain water levels to satisfy their recreational interests.

I recall accusations made after the resolution of the litigation between the upstream and downstream states that those upstream state governments were trying to use the environmental laws to accomplish what they could not achieve at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

You need to look a lot further before you try to lay the blame solely on environmentalists. Follow the money if you want to blame anyone.

That can’t be discounted. Yet evidence continues to come in that this is more than just a bit of incompetence by a few state servants.

Gatorgirl:

The same thing is happening elsewhere but with smaller rivers. Montana recently took out an old hydro electric dam south of Missoula and guess what, we’ve had record rain and snow melt causing flooding in town. The greenies wanted to return the river to it’s original route such as it was when Lewis & Clark roamed the area. They’ve been working on this for several years and the whole area there is flooded beyond it’s boundaries.

Rosey:

For example, the 150,000 cfs measured in this current Missouri flood is dwarfed by the 3,000,000 cfs monster that was measured at Cairo, Illinois; the northern point of the “southern Mississippi” (where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi). The flood drove almost a million farmers off land. The flood relief manager was Herbert Hoover, a raving progressive by modern standards. His success catapulted him into the presidency in ’28.

Jmc:

Our environmental lobby does not even consider hydroelectric power to be “renewable” despite the fact that solar driven evaporation, condensation, snowfall and melting are just about the most natural processes going on Planet Earth. Clearly the enviro-wackos are only interested in “technology” that does not work — much like environmentalists themselves, they do nothing useful either.

Melvinleppla:

Same thing could be said about the wildfires in the Western States. Being from Oregon and familiar with the forest industry, the US Forest Services back in the 60s-70s practiced good forest management. Of course this was before the environmental terrorists growth of money and strength.

There will always be forest fires but through the US Forest Services good forest management, explosive and massive forest fires were kept to an absolute minimum and were easy to control from a resources and manpower point of view.

This is why we have humongous fires now. Th Environmental movement has law-suited government agencies to death. They cannot practice forest, or any other type of management and over time dead trees and brush build up causing extremely dry tinder which in turn will cause mega fires, that destroy forests, deserts, and now homes.

There is nothing on the horizon that will curtail tyrannical environmentalists. Their strength and legal power grow with each day. As long as Al Gore is allowed to spew his poison, then nothing will change.

Cusco:

I live in Southwest Iowa, and it is worse than you describe. No one knew that the Corp had any intentions of flooding the Missouri River Basin until the first of May. Millions of acres of farm land is being systematically flooded. Small towns are being washed away. Investments, jobs, business being destroyed. All of this for enviromental theory. Just today the Corp has announced they are increasing the flow rate from Gavins Point Dam from 150 thousand cubic feet per second to 160 thousand cubic feet per second.

This is taking place with heavy rainfall increasing the ever rising flood levels. This is a totally heartless move. Where is the liberal media talking about what the government is doing to the economy and peoples lives in this area? Nowhere. The people are rolling up their sleeves and going to work protecting what they can of life and property. A day of reckoning will come and we will not forget.

Kiltmaker:

Looks like an effort to flood out the Red [Republican] States. What the environmentalists desire is to see all dams, all levies, all flood control efforts removed. Its a desire to return to the natural state, before Western Civilization wrecked the land.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide for yourself whether there is anything criminal in this, just plain incompetence, the best solution for a growing problem or a combination of these.

Me? I agree with Ed C here:

I would say criminal negligence is at work here. For an engineer to not understand the basic design intent behind the infrastructure is absolutely incompetent. The original intent of controlling flooding, and therefore saving lives and property is a noble undertaking. There must be an incredibly large gap in their education at University level, OR this is a criminal action with the intent of deliberately flooding and displacing people. What started out 40 plus years ago as a legitimate concern for pollution has morphed into a monstrosity.

Those who’ve driven this need to be prosecuted to within an inch of their life – made to see that there are consequences to ideology run amok in the big world of grown-ups.

11 comments for “Incompetence or criminal negligence?

  1. dearieme
    June 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I’m not up to date on the issue, but when last I looked it seemed as if the severity of the big flood in Brisbane earlier this year was caused by mismanagement of releases from the key dam. Politicians, eh?

  2. Rossa
    June 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Interesting article here about the number of bridges on the Missouri which have had to close and over a 100 mile stretch of the river. If things get worse and the bridges are taken out altogether then the impact on food supplies could be devestating.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110620/us_nm/us_flooding_plains

    The other major problem with the flooding in Nebraska is the potential effects on the Nuclear Power plants. One nuclear plant is already offline due to rising floodwaters.

    http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/article_68cbec9b-ab0a-5368-83f1-5acf4830fd38.html

    So it’s not just in Japan that floodwater can cause considerable problems.

    And even more flooding problems.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/06/22/north.dakota.flooding/

    • June 25, 2011 at 5:47 am

      Water’s tricky. Fire eventually burns itself out, tornadoes lose energy and dissipate, earthslips can be shifted with enough people (eventually) but water? That, you just have to wait …

  3. June 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Ho hum, tricky topic, but once these things are built, they themselves become part of the natural habitat and things adjust to suit. if people are happy with the way things are, then best leave well alone and don’t suddenly change your plans.

    Reminds me vaguely of a plan by some super-quango to allow part of Norfolk to become flooded (by simply not maintaining flood defences). Not to save money, oh no, but because “It can also be argued that by selecting a radical option now, the right message about the scale and severity of the impacts of climate change is delivered to the public.”

    • June 25, 2011 at 5:45 am

      If I could choose the parts of Norfolk, I might just get behind that one… 😀

      • June 25, 2011 at 6:02 am

        So can negligence be criminal?

  4. June 25, 2011 at 5:45 am

    “Bear in mind that the dam system is 60 years old already, apparently begun by Democrats.”

    But a very, very different breed of Democrat from today’s version..

  5. james wilson
    June 25, 2011 at 6:10 am

    The man made schemes controlling the Mississippi River alluvial plain have predictably created challenges of their own. If all the “environmentalist” could be used for shark bait in the Gulf, the problems remaining for honest men to solve would only be constant and vexing, not preposterous.

Comments are closed.