Army Corps Acknowledges Flood Mistakes - WSMV News 4

Army Corps Acknowledges Flood Mistakes

Posted: Updated: July 21, 2010

Local decision-makers will face Washington lawmakers Thursday to talk about the Nashville flood, what happened in those dangerous 48 hours and what might have gone wrong. 

When the hearing begins, praise is expected about how citizens responded to the floods, but also criticism about how federal government agencies relayed information.

A series of Channel 4 I-Team investigations exposed flaws in how federal agencies shared information with the public during the disaster.

The Army Corps of Engineers is acknowledging mistakes were made in how it shared and relayed information to the public during the worst of the May flooding. The Corps released its flood report Wednesday, analyzing its own actions.

No one was more surprised to see the after-flood action report released Wednesday than Tennessee's delegation in Washington, D.C.

As of Tuesday night, the Corps was saying it didn't know if the report would be even be released by Thursday's hearing. But now everyone has it, and it was certainly the focus of Tennessee lawmakers Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper was pouring over the after-action report late Wednesday afternoon in his Washington office.

Tennessee's delegation is now examining how the Corps said it handled the flood before a top Corps official testifies before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

Cooper said he hasn't had a chance to read the entire report yet but did have an initial reaction.

"The tentative conclusion of this report is, 'Everything is fine; let's move on to another topic.' But do we? Do we really know?" Cooper said.

The report acknowledges what a series of I-Team investigations showed: that there were communication delays and old data shared between the Corps and the National Weather Service that affected the accuracy of the flood forecasts that people downriver counted on.

Also in the report, the Corps acknowledges there needs to be improvement with how it alert the public to floods and how the Corps manages water behind the dams.

Some of the harshest criticism is expected from Cooper, who has come out swinging against the Army Corps of Engineers, especially the decisions made about releasing water through the Old Hickory Dam.

Cooper will testify, but won't be able to ask questions.

Sen. Lamar Alexander has said he'll focus on what lessons can be learned from the flood, and has said if penalties should be enforced, they will be enforced.

"I want this to be a fair, straightforward, straight-down-the-middle hearing," said Alexander, who said the purpose of the hearing is not to penalize any one agency. "I asked for the hearing to find out what happened and is there anything that we can do in the future to try and do a better job. If we find mistakes that deserve penalties, there will be penalties."

Alexander is expected to ask for a system to be developed to warn people of floods, much like people are warned about a tornado.

"If there is way we can improve communications, improve the way we respond to an emergency situation, then we need to do it," said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

Dean said he plans to praise how Nashville's citizens helped each other and that he's there to learn how things can be improved in the future.

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