Rigorous Eyes on the Corps of Engineers' Work

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The July 20 editorial "Don't Pass the Pork" missed a point in discussing the use of independent peer reviews for water resources projects constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Post's editorialists apparently believe that the Senate bill, which would require peer reviews for projects funded by the Water Resources Development Act, provides a greater degree of public safety than the House bill. The truth is, neither bill is acceptable from the standpoint of public safety; both bills would allow too many projects to escape peer review.

Like the House and Senate bills, the editorial endorsed a dollar threshold for those projects that undergo peer review. This is an extremely unwise concept. Our review of the levee failures in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city revealed just how badly the public is served by budget-conscious engineering.

Congress must order independent peer reviews for all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects -- regardless of their cost -- whenever their performance is critical to the public health, safety and welfare or when their reliability under emergency conditions is critical.

Such reviews might well have saved lives in New Orleans in 2005. The catastrophic failure of the city's levee system during Hurricane Katrina might have been avoided or greatly lessened by following sound engineering principles decades earlier.

PATRICK J. NATALE

Executive Director

American Society of Civil Engineers

Reston


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