Back in 1977, the congressman from Fort Wayne, Ind.,--now Republican Sen. Dan Quayle--gave the Army Corps of Engineers a tongue-lashing. The Army Corps, he told a reporter, has "kind of a beaver mentality. . . . Let's build a dam here and let's build a dam there." Quayle's outrage was prompted by the corps' request for $120,000 to prepare a plan for preventing a major flood in Fort Wayne like the one that occurred in 1913--a so-called 100-year flood.

The corps had come up with some suggestions in previous years that local residents rejected. When it proposed another study, Quayle complained that Fort Wayne's flood problem had been "studied to death." He also questioned the crediblity of the corps' cost/benefit arguments for a Fort Wayne flood plan. "I don't think it's as severe a problem as the corps would leave you to believe," he said. Why? "Because it hasn't happened," he told a reporter in 1977. After listening to testimony from Quayle, a House appropriations subcommittee withdrew money for the flood plan.

Does Quayle feel any differently after last month's severe flood--almost as bad as the 1913 deluge? He has no regrets, said a spokesman. "He just thought the problem had been studied too much and that action should be taken instead." No alternative plan was ever pushed by Quayle, although he and other congressmen are now trying to come up with some solution. Quayle's spokesman also insisted that the recent flooding was a "unique" occurrence.