Thursday, March 15, 2007

Saved by the Weather

The 17th Street Canal didn’t have the pumping capacity we wanted and were expecting for last hurricane season. That’s all we really need to know.

The US Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t happy with the pumps. That’s why they kept testing them.

A memo written before the pumps were installed concluded they would not work as intended.

The company that made them, MWI, says “Our pumps did, do and will work.” Of course, we don’t know if they would have worked in the tropical storm conditions we need them to work in. We had no such weather in 2006 and the pumps didn’t have to work. Lucky for MWI.

Lucky for us.

This reminds of that time, in South Florida, when weather conditions were bad, and they really needed some pumps, and they needed them to work for a certain time, but…

By September 2000, the drought was especially severe in South Florida. Lake Okeechobee, the hub of most of South Florida's water supply, had dropped to 11 feet, 3 feet below normal. If it fell much more, the lake would be too low to flow into the canals that feed the area's insatiable thirst.

To avert a potential crisis, the water management district's top executives decided to do something that had never been attempted before. They decided to install big electric pumps that could be hooked up underwater to make sure the lake would keep flowing into the canals.

***

Frank Finch, then-executive director of the water agency, recommended that the district's governing board waive its competitive bidding rules so the pumps could be in place by Dec. 31, before the lake level fell too low.

***

Although the main reason for waiving the bid requirements was to get the pumps in place by the end of December, MWI's contract required the company to deliver only half the shipment by Dec. 15, and the other half by the end of February.

MWI missed both deadlines. The first set of pumps arrived in mid-January, the rest in March.
But it’s okay. There is a happy ending:
MWI suffered no penalty, Taylor said, because enough rain fell to soften the drought's impact, buying the water district some time.

"We were in the mode of having the pumps when we needed them," he said. "That was our primary concern." Strict adherence to contract deadlines "was secondary."
Saved by the rain.

I don’t know if the federal government used MWI for political reasons for the 17th Street Canal closure pumps. But, read the entire St. Petersburg Times article where the above story came from. The process looked set up to give MWI the Lake Okeechobee contract.

[ADDED] The South Florida Water Management District, which was in charge of the Lake Okeechobee contract, is a state agency.

1 comment:

ashley said...

Why doesn't one of our lawyer friends start a class action for the people of South Louisiana against MWI?