November 22, 2014
When Hurricane Isaac whirled into the Gulf Coast this week, the federal levee system protecting New Orleans did its job. The patchwork of floodwalls shielding many places outside the city was no match for the drenching storm.
As the cleanup began Friday, an old debate grew more urgent: Is it worth billions of dollars to build better levees in areas that are sparsely populated and naturally flood-prone?
Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers has backed away from the idea of extending protection across much of south Louisiana. Engineers are concerned that improved levees might not work, and they question whether the money could be better spent elsewhere.
None of that sits well with locals, who feel abandoned by the federal government.
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