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Denial Is Not Just A River …

but it can still cause floods.

The Associated Press reports on the “repaired” Katrina-Battered New Orleans Levee Leaking

(AP) Despite more than $22 million in repairs, a levee that broke with catastrophic effect during Hurricane Katrina is leaking again because of the mushy ground on which New Orleans was built, raising serious questions about the reliability of the city’s flood defenses.

Outside engineering experts who have studied the project told The Associated Press that the type of seepage spotted at the 17th Street Canal in the Lakeview neighborhood afflicts other New Orleans levees, too, and could cause some of them to collapse during a storm.

“It is all based on a 30-year-old defunct model of thinking, and it means that when they wake up to this one – really – our cost is going to increase significantly,” said Bob Bea, a civil engineer at the University of California at Berkeley.

The Army Corps of Engineers disputed the experts’ dire assessment. The agency said it is taking the risk of seepage into account and rebuilding the levees with an adequate margin of safety.

“It’s always a potential, so it is a design component for every feature,” said Walter Baumy, the chief corps engineer in New Orleans.

Donald Jolissaint, chief of the corps’ technical support branch in New Orleans, denied the problem at the 17th Street Canal is serious.

“I personally do not at all believe that this little wet spot is anything that is going to cause a breach or a failure of any kind,” he said. A newly installed floodgate could be used to cut off the flow of water into the canal and reduce pressure on the levee, he said.

Right after I see the headquarters of the Army Corps of Engineers moved to New Orleans, and the housing area built in Lakeview, I might have some confidence that the Corps actually believes what it is saying. I will still doubt they are correct, but I would have more confidence that they, at least, believe in their “solution”.

2 comments

1 andante { 05.22.08 at 12:18 pm }

Last I heard, experts from the Netherlands were asked to share their demonstrated expertise with… the Rotary Club.

Yeah, that ought to git ‘er done.

(Rather than mess up your format, if the link doesn’t work, try http://www.Nola.com, May 7, 2008, “Dutch visitors share expertise on levees”)

2 Bryan { 05.22.08 at 12:43 pm }

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this in the past, but the Dutch land purchase from the Iroquois was a win-win. The Iroquois sold the land along the rivers which was very fertile, but subject to flooding. The Dutch were more than used to dealing with flooding, and good land is good land.

It was after the English moved in that the problems started.

The Dutch know how to do this, but the Corps refuses to accept that they failed, and they keep trying to patch a bad design instead of building a good design.

My Mother’s water garden is better designed that the New Orleans levee system. They continue to use the corrugated sheet metal pounded into the swamp. It is going to fail there, just like it fails here when used for seawalls.