U.S. Army Corp Of Engineers – Mrgo Disaster – Part 1

Imagine a Multi-Billion Dollar Engineering Project…On the scale of the Panama Canal, costing Billions of Dollars…. A superhighway for marine commerce….Right here in the good ole USA….including building levees that maintain the highway to transport goods worldwide….. while providing flood protection for those living along its banks.

But instead of the Panama Canal…Think MRGO….the Mississippi River Gulf Project.

The Panama Canal is 50 miles long, stretching across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. In comparison, the MRGO is 76 miles long, and required the removal of 60 million more cubic yards of earth than did the Panama Canal.

But the Panama Canal is an unqualified success. 14,000 vessels per year traverse it, and it earns $400 million dollar annually in tolls alone.

The MRGO?….. Fewer than 5 ships per day traveled it in any direction…. and instead of earning money, it costs anywhere from $13 million to $37 million per year just to keep it dredged. Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would dig a navigational channel to directly connect the Gulf of Mexico to the city of New Orleans. WHY…. It would benefit Big Business!

The new passage would shorten a ship’s journey to the Crescent City by 40 miles, and provide an economic boon to St. Bernard, the parish most impacted by the project.

The cost? A mere $95 MILLION. That’s $95 Million in 1957…

The potential benefit? UNLIMITED…. according to a 1957 News article: “…the (MRGO) is a chance for the industrial development of St. Bernard parish as a supplement to the great industrial growth of neighboring Orleans parish.”
It was a promise almost too good to be true — ships, docks, jobs, wharves, business…. and prosperity.

Brochures published in the early 1960s declared the new channel would facilitate “the growth and expansion of the Port of New Orleans,…. providing new areas for wharves and industrial expansion and relieve the congestion of the existing harbor facilities.”

The US Army Corp of Engineers said the new channel wouldn’t be so prone to silt up…. like the Mississippi did…. nor would the water levels seasonally rise and fall as dramatically as did the mighty Mississippi. It would be a win-win project.

While the Port touted the logic and economic impact the MRGO project would have on the city…. relatively few voices of concern were heard.

One 1958 report published by the Department of the Interior, warned that “excavation of the (MRGO) could result in major ecological change with widespread and severe ecological consequences.”
Too bad no one was listening.

The MRGO certainly provided access. Not just to ships, however,…. which largely ignored it.BUT It also provided access to saltwater! The Gulf of Mexico now had direct access into some of the most productive marshes and wetlands in the entire United States.

In short order, it killed more than 11,000 acres of cypress swamps and turned over 19,000 acres of brackish marsh into saline marsh. Vegetation died. Wildlife died off ……or disappeared.

The freshwater marshes that once supported over a quarter million wintering ducks and provided an annual fur harvest of over 650,000 animals vanished due to saltwater intrusion.

A recent report jointly sponsored by the LSU Agricultural Center, Sea Grant and Coastal Wetlands and Restoration, , said…

“The New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers speculates that the loss of land in the area approaches nearly 3,400 acres of fresh/intermediate marsh. More than 10,300 acres of brackish marsh, 4,200 acres of saline marsh and 1,500 acres of cypress swamps and levee forests have been destroyed or severely altered.”

And the damage continues today. The saline-rich water continues its deadly encroachment, further worsening an already incredible soil erosion rate. Every 24 minutes, Louisiana loses another acre of land. Nationally, the average beach subsides about 2 feet per year.

Here in Louisiana, they lose upwards of 35 square miles per year. That’s larger than….. the size of Manhattan. The fact is Louisiana is losing at least that much ground to erosion and subsidence every year, and no real response had been forthcoming from the state or from Washington.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, environmentalists and others, including voters in St. Bernard Parish whom the canal was intended to help, called for its closure. Criticism intensified following Hurricane Katrina, when engineers implicated the MRGO in the failure of levees and flood-walls protecting large parts of Greater New Orleans.

MRGO was derisively termed a “Hurricane Highway” in Katrina’s wake, due to its apparent role in amplifying the impacts of storm surges.

Many of the citizens and government of St. Bernard Parish had consistently voiced their concerns about the channel, the erosion of their parish, and the direct access the MRGO has provided for tropical storm surges and hurricanes, giving them an unimpeded superhighway from the Gulf into the city of New Orleans.

Their concerns were not without cause. As far back as the October 2001 an issue of Scientific American warned that a worst-case hurricane impact could swamp the entire city of New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands of people .

AND THAT HAPPENED on Monday 29th August 2005 at 8:00am killing 1,836 people and causing more than $US81 billion in damage


To see how a dedicated father & son Legal team, John and Gilbert Andry, of The Andry Law Firm took on the UNITED STATES GOVT and THE US ARMY CORP of Engineers and WON…. in a classic David & Goliath Story.

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Making claims against the federal government requires turning square corners.”

John and Gilbert … will show the nation today how they “turned those squared corners” and successfully sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in 2005, claiming negligence in designing, constructing and maintaining the Mr Go.

The VERDICT…. Hurricane Katrina victims were awarded $719,698 in damages by a judge in a lawsuit claiming a canal dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico destroyed a natural barrier to a storm surge.

The Judge said “The Army engineers are liable for the “negligent operation and maintenance” of the canal and not for faulty design or construction”.

“Once the corps exercised its discretion to create a navigational channel, it was obligated to make sure that channel did not destroy the environment surrounding it thereby creating a hazard to life and property,”

“When the corps designed the MRGO, it recognized that foreshore protection was going to be needed, yet the corps did nothing to monitor the problem in a meaningful way.”
“The people of this community have finally been vindicated and now they’re going to be compensated”

“It is a landmark victory,”. “It’s the first time ever the Army Corps of Engineers has been held responsible for its monumental negligence.”

The finding of negligence in the maintenance and operation of the canal supports the claims of about 100,000 residents and business owners in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish,

John and Gilbert have earned the highest respect from citizens and lawyers alike…. as one of the best Trial lawyers in New Orleans…. In Louisiana….. and in the nation.

They are driven to fight for people who had been harmed by the willful or negligent actions of others..

Their goals….. Not ONLY To get Justice for their clients…

BUT To make sure ALL Americans have the right to justice


You can contact John Andry @ 504 586 8899 or www.andrylawfirm.com