- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Environmental laws and Katrina

The article “U.S. law blocked storm barrier” (Nation, Tuesday) touches on an issue that should be of great concern to all lawmakers but is largely ignored. Well-intentioned but poorly written “feel good” laws are killing Americans by stopping prudent programs that save lives. This is clearly illustrated by the disaster in New Orleans.

After Hurricane Betsy in 1965, the Corps of Engineers developed a plan to prevent a storm surge caused by a Category 4-5 hurricane from entering Lake Pontchartrain. The plan was a scaled-down version of what the Netherlands successfully implemented following the great flood of 1953 to keep the North Sea out of the two-thirds of that country that is below sea level.

Basically, the Army plan called for large barriers to be constructed along Interstate 10. Some of these would be movable. Normally, they would be open to allow for the flow of water, aquatic animals and commerce, but they would be closed during a major storm event.

In 1977, environmental groups successfully stopped the plan through litigation by claiming the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was inadequate. The law is so vague that any impact statement could be called inadequate.

In his Dec. 30, 1977, ruling, Judge Charles Schwartz Jr. for the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, decided “that plaintiffs herein (those who sued to stop the project) have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project based upon the August, 1974, FEIS is allowed to continue.” A federal judge ruled that a project that would prevent a storm surge from flooding New Orleans through Lake Pontchartrain would irreparably harm all persons in New Orleans. He effectively stopped all such projects in eastern Louisiana. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the plan has resurfaced occasionally, but the Corps of Engineers thought it unlikely it could overcome the ruling. This despicable ruling is the disaster of New Orleans.

As the article points out, in the early 1990s the Corps planned to upgrade and fortify the levees around New Orleans. In 1996, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups successfully sued under NEPA and stopped the needed upgrade.

It is time for Congress to recognize that its primary duty is to protect the citizens of the United States, not pass laws that are used to deny this protection.

KENNETH HAAPALA

Fairfax

Defending the Akaka bill

I am writing in response to a Sept. 5 Commentary column by Frank Gaffney Jr., “The undoing of America.” In his column, Mr. Gaffney mischaracterizes several issues to support his odious and fallacious argument against passage of Senate Bill 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act. His mischaracterizations concern the existence of the Native Hawaiian community, the constitutionality of the legislation and the motivations of the politicians involved.

First, the column refers to Native Hawaiians as “an ethnic community that is largely a figment of some politicians’ imaginations.” This reference exposes Mr. Gaffney’s ignorance of the history of the native people of Hawaii, who even today make up a real, distinct and identifiable indigenous community. Hawaiian Gov. Linda Lingle supports this legislation, not to feed her political ambition, but because she understands the vital contribution of this community to the state of Hawaii and the importance of preserving this rich cultural heritage.

Second, Mr. Gaffney refers to the legislation as a “clearly unconstitutional effort to legislatively manufacture a new ‘tribe.’ ” This statement is also incorrect. In fact, as the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged, Congress has plenary power over Indian affairs, including the authority to reorganize a formerly sovereign indigenous group.

As Congress itself has stated, this power extends to Native Hawaiians. Title 42, Chapter 122, Section 11701 of the U.S. Code (paragraph 17) states as follows:

“The authority of the Congress under the United States Constitution to legislate in matters affecting the aboriginal or indigenous peoples of the United States includes the authority to legislate in matters affecting the native peoples of Alaska and Hawaii.”

Therefore, contrary to Mr. Gaffney’s assertion, it is clearly constitutional for Congress to address the plight of the Native Hawaiian people. By passing S. 147, Congress would allow the reorganization of a Hawaiian governing entity to establish a political relationship.

Third, Mr. Gaffney cites a 2002 Supreme Court case to create the impression that the court already has found the basis of this legislation unconstitutional. The holding of that case, however, did not address the constitutionality of federal recognition for Native Hawaiians. It merely found that a state agency could not bar participation in a state election based on race. The case has no bearing on the constitutionality of congressional enactments for Native Hawaiians.

Rather than objectively evaluating the well-established federal case law, statutes and federal policy that guide Congress in the fulfillment of its unique obligation to the descendants of America’s once-sovereign indigenous people, Mr. Gaffney resorts to offensive distortions of the truth and relies on inflammatory, divisive tactics to incite opposition to S. 147.

I believe that rather than being vilified as “violating their oath of office” for supporting this bill, members of Congress should be congratulated for upholding our responsibilities for the care and protection of the indigenous people of our great nation. The Native Hawaiian people have suffered greatly, and this bill would allow them to address the severe challenges facing their community.

ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA

Congressional delegate

Washington

Turkey, Cyprus and the EU

The Turkey-Cyprus issue is indeed complex and needs greater regard from respected journals such as The Washington Times if it is to be resolved to the satisfaction of the Cypriot people, taken as a whole (“France, the spoiler,” Editorial, yesterday). It has to be if Turkey’s European future is to be secured and a crisis between Islam and the West avoided.

The government of Cyprus is the sole and official government of the island. The Turkish Cypriot state is not recognized by any country other than Turkey — nor can it ever be if we are to prevent rogue states from invading other nations, ethnically cleansing them of their inhabitants and changing their demography. These are legal realities that cannot be swept away for the sake of what is now perceived to be geopolitical expediency.

Please understand, the overwhelming majority of the people of Cyprus rejected the U.N.-brokered settlement plan because suddenly, after decades of Turkish intransigence, a last-minute botch was presented and aimed at exonerating Turkey for her crimes before Cyprus — having met all the accession criteria — joined the European Union. Not letting Cyprus in because more than a third of her territory remained occupied by a massive foreign army, in breach of dozens of U.N. Security Council resolutions, would have been unreasonable.

The plan was rejected because it sought to restrict the rights of Cypriots to have their property restored and to settle freely within their own homeland. It would have entrenched a repulsive system of apartheid on a tiny island and legitimized the presence of foreign occupation troops in perpetuity. No freedom-loving people in Europe, or the world, would have accepted a settlement like that — except perhaps through desperation of a kind faced by Cypriots in the north under foreign military rule.

Cyprus has been held hostage by Turkey for more than 30 years, and the world has done nothing. Now that she is safely in the European Union, who can blame her for wanting to hold Turkey’s entry talks hostage until justice is done? She doesn’t have a massive army or powerful friends to take back what is rightly hers. Unlike Kuwait, the only oil she has is made from olives.

It’s time to focus on freeing and reuniting this wonderful little nation once and for all. Cyprus can show the world that having Muslim neighbors is not a threat but an enrichment. That has to be good for Turkey, Europe and America.

ANDREAS KOUMI

Secretary

Cypriot Academy

London


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