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I find it hard to believe all the people carping about how the funding for improving the levee system in New Orleans. They say that the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers was cut. Why do Americans everywhere have to pay for protection of New Orleans? More importantly, why didn't the city of New Orleans do something on its own to protect themselves from what everyone knew was eventually going to happen?

The Southern California area provides an excellent example. Although it might not seem it, Southern California is more at risk for flooding than many areas along the Mississippi. Most of the year, Los Angeles and its environs are bone dry. However, during the winter, it is possible to have torrential rainfalls of several inches in only a few hours. Adding to the problem are the mountains surrounding the Los Angeles basin, some of which reach over 11,000 feet above sea level. These mountains literally squeeze almost all the water out of storm before it passes, meaning that rainfalls of 12-15 inches in only eight hours are not uncommon at higher elevations.

After devastating floods in the 1930s, local governments banded together to develop a massive system for flood control. One of the most visible effects of this new system is the concrete-lined Los Angeles River. Although an eyesore most of the year, it is a lifesaver when it rains.

After studies revealed that certains parts of the system might be overloaded due to increased development, many of the levees were rasied and other capacity increases were made.

The result was that the record rainfall this year (significantly more than an average year in Seattle) did only minor damage in areas protected by the flood control system. The major damage was in areas outside the flood control system or on hillsides that were dangerous areas to build in the first place.

The system still has its weaknesses, and might be overtaxed in the case of a massive storm the likes of which we have never seen, but it's better than waiting for it to happen
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