A federal judge refused to immediately reinstate Louisiana State University hurricane and coastal researcher Ivor van Heerden, who was stripped of most of his duties last year. Van Heerden claims he is losing his job because he has been outspoken critic of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady, of Baton Rouge, denied the request for a temporary restraining order for van Heerden. However, a preliminary injunction hearing was scheduled for May 19 to consider reinstating the former deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center.
While van Heerden lost most of his duties last year in the controversial LSU decision, his employment does not officially terminate until mid-May.
A national organization, the American Association of University Professors, last week announced an investigation into LSU’s actions involving van Heerden. Van Heerden was an outspoken critic of the federal government’s levee protections in New Orleans and the surrounding region before and after Hurricane Katrina.
Van Heerden sued the university and four administrators in February. He alleged that his LSU career is ending because he blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for problems with New Orleans levees that collapsed after Katrina struck in 2005.
He maintains that LSU officials took action against him out of fear of losing federal funds because of his criticism of the corps.
A report issued in 2007 by a team of researchers led by van Heerden said that decades of mistakes – some as basic as not knowing the elevation of New Orleans – led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to believe its levees and floodwalls would protect the city from a storm as strong as Hurricane Katrina.
The report also said the corps never used a storm surge model released in 1979 by the National Hurricane Center. “If they had, they would have realized that their levee system wasn’t high enough for a Category 3 storm at all,” according to van Heerden.
LSU denies the allegations and any other wrongdoing
Information from: The Advocate
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