In the first lawsuit to go to trial since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to properly operate and maintain a 76-mile shipping channel dredged in 1965 to connect New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico.
The court didn't consider the canal's design, which former consultants testified increased the severity of flooding by removing natural barriers to high waters. Instead, it found the Corps negligent for not remediating the design once the agency learned of potential weaknesses.
In a 156-page ruling, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana Judge Stanwood Duval wrote that he was “utterly convinced” that the agency “doomed the channel to grow to two to three times its design width,” creating “a more forceful front wave attack on the levee” that protected St. Bernard Parrish and the Lower 9th Ward, two of the hardest-hit areas of the city.
Though the Flood Control Act of 1928 protects the Corps from lawsuits related to project failures, the court ruled earlier this year that the canal is a navigation channel, thus enabling the case to proceed. The agency claims that nothing could have alleviated the effects of the hurricane's 1,000-year storm surge, and plans to appeal the decision.
Further north, the Minnesota DOT will receive $1 million from Progressive Contractors Inc., the company that was resurfacing an interstate bridge in downtown Minneapolis when it collapsed into the Mississippi River in 2007. Claims also have been brought against URS Corp., which the department had retained to evaluate the structure for potential improvements; and Jacobs Engineering Group, which inspected the bridge.