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Fla. L. Rev.


Last year, hundreds of thousands of residents of the lower Mississippi River basin were forced to flee Hurricane Katrina.2 Having scattered like leaves before the gale-force winds that pounded the Gulf Coast, many are still displaced by the wreckage caused by storm surges and floodwaters.3 Those who have returned continue to experience the adverse effects of a shattered infrastructure as they attempt to rebuild their homes and their lives. The environmental calamity is profound: drinking water sources polluted by destroyed septic systems and leaking storage tanks; contaminated sediments from the bayous to the residents' backyards; decimated marshes and oyster beds-in short, an ecology turned inside out. 4

Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon in this region. Why were the Gulf Coast communities so vulnerable? The answer to this question is frustratingly elusive. One might understandably believe that, as a developed nation, the United States has the most sophisticated technologies at its fingertips and first-rate environmental laws to ensure appropriate implementation through open public processes. Yet in actuality, there were serious failures at every level of government.

This Essay begins in Part II with a snapshot of the historical events and physical characteristics that shaped the Missouri and Mississippi River basin communities. Part III then explores the existing management matrix of federal laws governing the Corps of Engineers' activities in these basins. Part IV demonstrates how CBA and federalism have obstructed integrated, sustainable management strategies. This Essay concludes in Part V with an assessment of how these obstructions can be overcome in a post-Katrina world and with suggestions for an Interior Rivers Ecosystem Act.