Experts Warn of Flaws in Rebuilt New Orleans Levees


(PHOTO: Tyrone Turner/National Geographic Magazine)

The NYT has an article today on the “signs of serious flaws” in the levees of New Orleans. It is based on a feature by National Geographic and that is the must read.

During a recent inspection of the levee system with National Geographic
Magazine, engineering professor Bob Bea of the University of
California, Berkeley, found multiple weak spots. The most serious flaws
turned up in the rebuilt levees along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet
ship channel, which broke in more than 20 places when Katrina’s storm
surge pounded it, leading to devastating flooding in the Lower Ninth
Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Bea found several areas where rainstorms
have already eroded the newly rebuilt levees, particularly where they
consist of a core of sandy and muddy soils topped with a cap of
Mississippi clay. “It’s like icing on the top of angel food cake,” Bea
says. “These levees will not be here if you put a Katrina surge against

Bea also found that decade-old gaps remain in the
floodwalls lining the Orleans Avenue Canal, and hurricane-damaged
sections of the walls along the London Avenue and 17th Street Canals
have not been repaired or replaced. Even more troubling, water appears
to be seeping under the stout new floodwall erected along the
Industrial Canal to protect the Lower Ninth Ward. The new wall sits
atop steel sheet piles driven 20 feet into the ground, but water from
holes in the canal bed, excavated before Katrina or scoured by the
storm, may be seeping under the barrier through permeable layers of
sand and silt. Bea, who actually tasted the seepage to make sure it was
brackish—a sign that it was coming from the canal—says the wall could
fail in the next hurricane.

co-leader of a Berkeley team that investigated the Katrina levee
failures, is now serving as an expert witness in a multi-billion-dollar
class-action lawsuit against the corps. But he is not alone in his
criticisms. A Dutch engineer recently visited some of the new
floodgates and pumps installed at the mouths of the city’s three main
drainage canals. His verdict: They may be “doomed to fail” in the next
big storm.

National Geographic has an excellent VIDEO of
aerial footage showing the flaws. There is another VIDEOof Bob Bea warning it is not yet safe in much of New Orleans. When asked if the city will flood again in the near future he responds…”Yes without a doubt.”

UPDATE 5/8/07: You can go HEREto see photoswe took on our recent trip to NOLA of repair work to one of the major breaches New wall and armoured levee sits right next to old wall and apparent erosion of levee.

5 thoughts on “Experts Warn of Flaws in Rebuilt New Orleans Levees

  1. You know what’s going to happen to Mr. Bea, don’t you?? Fox Noise is going to ramp up the “Well, he’s a Leftist from Berkeley and he’s involved in a LAWSUIT so don’t pay any attention to him…yada,yada,yada” Tragically, another Katrina-like disaster will happen. Perhaps then Americans on the whole will realize that our country is being run by a cadre of dangerously incompetent psychopaths.

  2. The new pumps don’t work, the new levees are flawed.
    Next to the spots where the levees along the London Avenue Canal and the 17th Street Canal were repaired with stronger supports are the same old faulty levees which failed for Katrina. Who thinks ANYTHING that has been done in New Orleans will make it safer in the next hurricane? Only the stupid.

  3. I’ll of course blog about this, and Gene214, good point. We need to point out that the opposite is also true. The people who are commenting on the other side are also involved in the lawsuit. They are the ones BEING sued, so can we believe them?

  4. II’m wanting to attribute go Ivor van Heerden (but I could be wrong on that) that it is inevitable that a city would be built at the mouth of the Mississippi (or that NOLA would be built). And yes, the Dutch have built in worse places.
    That being said, if you’re going to build it there, you’ve got to build it right! Add together iffy pumps, levees that are falling apart just a few years after being erected, the erosion of the wetlands and the probable rise in sea level caused by global warming and you have an inevitable mess.

  5. I wonder if Berkeley Prof Bob Bea is the brother of 9th Circuit Judge (GOP appointee, Federalist Society member) Carlos Bea?
    They look similar, in portraits, but I haven’t found any mention of a family connection, so far . . .

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