The Army Corps of Engineers needs to acknowledge that the world is heating up and seas are rising to better protect the nation from flooding and hurricanes, according to a report by two environmental groups.
The report, released by Environmental Defense and the National Wildlife Federation, is a compendium of complaints against the agency that have gained momentum since the agency’s catastrophic engineering mistakes led to about 88 percent of the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
The report said unless the Corps prioritizes its projects to base them on flood risk, more disasters like Katrina will happen as the seas become more dangerous and flood control structures are taxed by heavier rains and bigger spring floods.
“As climate change raises the stakes, Congress and the Corps must make difficult decisions to upgrade and prioritize flood-control projects,” the report said.
During a visit to New Orleans for a congressional hearing, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the head of the Corps, said his agency takes into account “physical changes in the environment, whatever the causes,” including sea level rise.
The policy analysis cited the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists. The IPCC says the world is experiencing rising sea levels, the disappearance of species and intensifying natural disasters because of global warming.
Corps spokesman Dana Cruikshank said the agency had not yet reviewed the report but that Corps scientists had served on the U.N. network.
“They continue to be engaged with scientists from other agencies and academia on the interpretation of climate change science studies, and the implications of climate change science to the Corps mission,” Cruikshank said.
With Congress debating legislation that funds Corps projects nationwide, the environmentalists’ report said lawmakers need to overhaul the Corps and make changes to the nation’s water policy.
David Conrad, a senior resource specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, said the Corps needs an overhaul in the same way that the old playbooks on national security were thrown out after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
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