June 29, 2006


TO: Col. Robert M. Carpenter, District Commander

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Jacksonville District

701 San Marco Boulevard

Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175

FAX: (904) 232-2237


Stephen C. Duba, Engineering Chief

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

701 San Marco Boulevard

Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175


Lt. General Carl A. Strock

Commander and Chief of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

441 G. Street, NW

Washington, DC 20314-1000

FAX: (202) 761-1683


RE: Open access to flood maps


Dear Col. Carpenter,


On behalf of our more than 1,450 members, the Society of Environmental Journalists is writing to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release maps showing in detail the potential impact of failures at the Herbert Hoover Dike.


The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) is the world's largest and oldest organization of individual working journalists covering environmental issues. Founded in 1990, SEJ consists of journalists, educators, and students dedicated to improving the quality, accuracy, and visibility of environmental reporting. Working through its First Amendment Task Force and WatchDog Program, SEJ addresses freedom of information, right-to-know, and other news-gathering issues of concern to journalists reporting on environmental topics.


Aside from being in the public interest, the release of the maps showing who might be affected by failures of the dike at Lake Okeechobee is required by federal Freedom of Information statutes — which include no exemption for unclassified "national security" or "terrorism concerns." The Mississippi Valley division of the corps at first attempted to restrict information about weaknesses in the New Orleans levees immediately after Hurricane Katrina, citing terrorism concerns. After being challenged, it quickly admitted the information was public and released it. This sets a clear precedent for how the corps should handle levee information nationally.


The failure of a levee containing Lake Okeechobee during the 1928 hurricane resulted in an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 deaths; today as many as 60,000 people live near enough to the dike to be evacuated if a failure were eminent. A panel convened by the South Florida Water Management District has indicated that the 140-mile-long dike is in poor shape. Structural weaknesses have been documented with regularity since 1995.


The Herbert Hoover Dike faces far more frequent and reliable threats from hurricanes than from terrorists. Fortunately, it should be far easier for residents and local officials to plan for a hurricane than a terrorist attack — if they are provided with enough information to do so. Given what we have all learned from the unfortunate loss of life and property during Hurricane Katrina last year, it seems clear that informing people within the vulnerable zone is crucial to helping them make good decisions about preparation and evacuation.


It is the clear duty of the corps, both under the law and in the interest of public safety, to release the maps to the public, both directly and via the media.




Perry Beeman

SEJ President


Ken Ward Jr.


SEJ First Amendment Task Force






Rep. Henry Waxman

2204 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

(202) 225-4099 (fax)


Rep. Tom Davis

U.S. House of Representatives

2348 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515-4611

Fax: (202) 225-3071


U.S. Rep. Mark Foley

104 Cannon HOB

Washington, DC 20515

Fax: (202) 225-3132 (fax)


U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings

2353 Rayburn Office Building

Washington D.C.  20515

Fax: (202) 225-1171


Sen. Mel Martinez

1650 Prudential Drive, Suite 220

Jacksonville, FL 32207

Fax: (904) 398-8591


Hart 317 Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Fax: (202) 228-5171


Sen. Bill Nelson

716 Senate Hart Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Phone: 202-224-5274

Fax: (202) 228-2183


Sen. Susan Collins

461 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Fax: (202) 224-2693


Sen. Joseph Lieberman

706 Hart Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-9750 Fax


Gov. Jeb Bush

The Capitol, 400 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399

FAX: (850) 487-0801