Nine Months After Katrina, New Orleans 'Not Any Better,' Congressman Says

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - New Orleans has seen no improvement since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina nine months ago, according to a Mississippi congressman addressing the "Take Back America" conference in Washington, D.C., Monday.

Rep. Benny Thompson (D-Miss.) made that claim despite federal efforts that have reportedly restored storm protection for the Crescent City to at least pre-Katrina strength.

"It's not any better even nine months after," Thompson said at the annual gathering of liberal political activists. "We have to do better.

"This Katrina laid us bare," he added.

Thompson likened the Bush administration's leadership after the August 2005 hurricane to the story "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which a gullible, self-absorbed emperor is fooled into buying a new "suit" that really left him naked.

Thompson also criticized what he called the slow progress in rebuilding the city.

"It will take us 10 years to bring it back, if we're lucky," he said.

But according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the flood control levees intended to protect New Orleans were restored to their pre-Katrina strength before the official beginning of this year's hurricane season on June 1.

The USACE repaired and restored 169 miles of levees and floodwalls since September 2005, according to its website. The site also indicates that some of the newly installed features "will provide better protection than what existed prior to August 2005."

The USACE met its goal of repairing levees before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, and "will continue to upgrade New Orleans flood and storm protection through 2010 ... to engineer, construct, and improve storm and flood protection infrastructure of levees, floodwalls and interior drainage to a 100-year protection level."

But Thompson asked the liberal conclave to help Democrats take control of the government and promised they would fix alleged delays in rebuilding the region.

"This administration and the Republican-led Congress have not kept their promise to secure America," Thompson said. "Give us a chance to be in charge."

In addition to the restoration of levees, the USACE estimated in January that it had already removed more than half of the debris left in Katrina's wake and had installed more than 129,000 temporary roofs.

Officials from the USACE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been working together to reevaluate their emergency response program in order to better prepare for delivery of necessary supplies like emergency food and water.

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