For the Corps
I'm sure the Army Corps of Engineers is going to receive a lot of spankings in the coming months, for failing to anticipate.
I have no connection with the Corps, but I've watched them at close range over the years, and think they deserve a bit of defending.
During the years I lived in Manhattan ('56-'66) the Corps was building Tuttle Creek Dam
just north of town. This was a totally justified project, since the Big Blue had destroyed parts of Manhattan in 1903 and 1951. Nevertheless, the first signs of environmental opposition were already showing in '56, with billboards saying "Big Dam Foolishness."
Later, in the '60s and '70s, the Corps got carried away, building many dams just for recreation. For instance, Milford Lake
near Fort Riley, and Kaw Lake
near Ponca City. Both are on streams that never caused significant flooding, and Kaw Lake hasn't even become an important recreation area.
Partly because of this extravagance, but mainly because of eco-pressure, Congress has reined in the Corps in the last 20 years. So even the most basic task -- keeping the Miss flowing in its unnaturally high delta -- has been underfunded.
Look at the Industrial Canal project page
for an indication of how the Corps is forced to operate these days. The project was first authorized in 1956 (hmm), but Congress didn't get around to funding it until 1998. Work didn't actually begin until 2002, which means that the Bush Administration has been pushing harder than previous admins. What slowed the work for 50 years? Controversy about wetlands and neighborhood impact.
Look especially at this part
of the project, which is pure Jesse Jackson-style pandering to Democrat constituencies. A significant part of the Industrial Canal funding went toward job training, community outreach, historically-black colleges, playgrounds, etc, etc, to the tune of $33 million. (What was the estimate for strengthening the main levees? $40 million?) So New Orleans got what it wanted: subsidies for historically-black colleges before improved levees. If this project had been completed when first planned, the levees in that area would have been improved already.