Let there be Urgency

“But if it was my world and I didn’t have much money, I’d get out there withVisqueen and start nailing the damn stuff down [in order to armor the levees]. That pile of dirt won’t do what you want unless you protect it. We need to secure what we’ve got, and it’s irresponsible not to.”–Robert Bea, Berkeley engineer

levees not armored

(Times Picayune photo)

Levees, not the already eroded thing you see above that W has wrought, but Cat 5 levees must be a priority of this new Congress if NOLA is to survive.

Forensic investigators have said that building levees and floodwalls without lining them with rock or concrete was a fundamental flaw in the hurricane protection system that failed during Hurricane Katrina.

And yet, 18 months later, the region’s levees remain largely unarmored and are likely to stay that way for the next two or three storm seasons. And, to the dismay of scientists monitoring the Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to patch together the region’s flood defenses, in some places the unarmored levees already have deep cuts caused by rainfall pounding their unprotected crests.

All of the postmortems on the catastrophic failure of the levee system — some by independent scientists, done by the corps itself — acknowledge that scouring and other forms of erosion played a key role in the collapse.


In January, the corps made an urgent request for $600 million to armor much or most of the 360-mile system of levees, but at the request of the Bush administration, corps officials whittled that to $170 million.

That would allow for armoring only the most vulnerable spots; the only levees to make the short list have been the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet and one reach in eastern New Orleans.


Under its current, tentative schedule, even limited additional armoring isn’t likely to be finished until the start of the 2010 hurricane season.

Although corps research and development teams have been studying what to armor and how to do it since January, there is still no final word on the strategies they propose to implement. “It was decided that a more detailed analysis was needed to ensure the best answers,” Hitchings said.


If the research and development findings determine that additional sections of the system should be armored in the next phase of work, or that $170 million isn’t sufficient to do the job, Hitchings said the corps would take a new request forward. “We made a commitment to the administration that if we find that it isn’t enough to do the job we need to do, we’ll come back to them.”

What a load of unarmored crap. You urgently need $600M and get $170M but hey we can ask again later if we realize we need what we knew we needed all along?

BushCo continues to “rebuild” on the cheap and it needs to stop. The new Congress needs to infuse the necesssary capital into levee protection for New Orleans and further instill the required sense of urgency to rebuilding NOLA and the Gulf Coast which has been grossly lacking from Bush.

UPDATE: Mr Clio atWorld Class New Orleans has more commentary…

4 thoughts on “Let there be Urgency

  1. So what you’re telling me is that the money spend on NOLA (whether it be local, state, corporate, or even the pittance of the Feds) has been wasted. All it takes is a rainstorm (rather common on the coast, and even one slow moving tropical storm can drop 10 inches); the run-off concentrates its energy in deepening those furrows in the levee. Just one break and the collective energy of Lake Ponchetrain (aka, the Atlantic Ocean) flowing downhill concentrates on expanding any break.
    Admittedly, my training is in Chemical Engineering and not Civil Engineering so my standing to testify in court on this is insufficient. But I know from working on toxic waste containment facilities that you actively monitor for any furrows on containment walls. Admittedly, you are going to get furrows as a natural process – so that is why you cover them with some type of substance to protect them; in short you layer. It sounds to me that even the much maligned Corps has asked to have the resources to do so
    Then I look at the furrows and remember that this has been a rather sedate weather season.

  2. …and I hear that line about no liner material and being not an engineer but a reporter who watched a major lake impoundment being built in 1987-89, I freak completely out.
    You’re telling me the US Army Corps of Engineers did not put riprock or rubble or any form of substantial stone underlayment, liner or facing on the levees protecting New Orleans?
    Oh. My. God.
    That’s not just stupid, it’s highly unethical in the actionable professional engineer sense, and it may rise to the levels of prosecutable criminal neglect. Gumbo mud is a lot of things but waterproof ain’t on the list, and I was raised in a country (Ozarks) full of gumbo mud. Sucks vehicles down to the axles and takes weeks to quit shifting around after the top layer dries and cracks and peels away to dust in the wind.

  3. i bet iWaq is doing just as well as NOLA. oh wait, IT IS.
    and that is damned bad.

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