Two months before Hurricane Katrina, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) gave a chilling preview of its rampage. "This isn't a simulation of World War III, or 'The Day After Tomorrow,' or Atlantis -- but one day, it may be Atlantis," Vitter warned at a hearing. Then he displayed a computer model of a Category 4 hurricane smashing New Orleans and flooding the city under 18 feet of water.
"It's not a question of if," Vitter said. "It's a question of when."
New Orleans had always been described as a disaster waiting to happen, a city in a bowl below sea level. Vitter accused the federal government of neglecting the city's man-made and natural protections -- by underfunding levees that were designed only for a Category 3 storm and stalling a massive plan to restore Louisiana's tattered web of coastal marshes.
"Instead of spending millions now, we are going to spend billions later," he said.
But as Vitter was forecasting destruction, he was also holding up legislation that would have approved levee upgrades and launched the coastal restoration plan. And the holdup involved an industry-backed provision that Vitter had inserted to help Louisiana's loggers deforest cypress swamps, which would reduce the natural hurricane defenses the restoration was supposed to rebuild.
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