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St. Bernard Parish joins MR-GO lawsuit

Plaintiffs want corps to shut down channel

Aug 31, 2006 | St. Bernard Parish government leaders have long blamed the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet for the devastating flooding that swamped some 25,000 homes after Hurricane Katrina.

On Wednesday, they announced that the parish had formally joined a class-action federal lawsuit that aims to force the closure of MR-GO.
That suit, filed in July against the Army Corps of Engineers, seeks to have the shipping channel closed and also asks for the appointment of a panel to recommend methods to address any dangers posed by the channel, including rebuilding wetlands that critics say were destroyed by MR-GO.

I feel good. I feel we did the right thing," St. Bernard Parish Councilman Mark Madary said Wednesday.

A corps spokesman said the corps could not comment on pending litigation.

The class-action suit was initially filed by eight residents of St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans, including Madary and New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents the 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans.

The St. Bernard Parish Council last October authorized parish government to consult with lawyers regarding a lawsuit. Although some of the water entering St. Bernard Parish came from breaches in the Industrial Canal levees, parish officials contend MR-GO acted as a funnel for Hurricane Katrina's surge to swamp the parish.

Katrina's surge, estimated at more than 20 feet, poured over and through sections of the 17-foot-tall levee along the shipping canal. In previous interviews, corps representatives have said Katrina's surge was so powerful that it would have flooded the area regardless of the presence of MR-GO.

Madary said the council last week was unanimous in its decision to join the lawsuit.

"How do you justify what it's done to the people?" he asked.

Besides Madary, Williard-Lewis and the St. Bernard Parish Council, other plaintiffs in the suit are St. Bernard Parish residents Charles "Pete" Savoy, Gerald Nevle and Pam Nevle, 9th Ward resident Pam Dashiell and eastern New Orleans residents Shawn and Nga Tran.

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