NOLA Levee Leaking

Not good news at all:

NEW ORLEANS (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.

The Army Corps of Engineers has spent about $4 billion so far of the
$14 billion set aside by Congress to repair and upgrade the
metropolitan area’s hundreds of miles of levees by 2011. Some outside
experts said the leak could mean that billions more will be needed and
that some of the work already completed may need to be redone.

“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.


Over the past few months, however, the corps found evidence that
canal water is seeping through the joints in the sheet metal and then
rising to the surface on the other side of the levee, forming puddles
and other wet spots.

Engineers said the boggy ground is a more serious problem than the
corps realizes. Bea said there is a roughly 40 percent chance of the
17th Street Canal levee collapsing if water rises higher than 6 feet
above sea level. During Katrina, the water reached 7 feet in the canal.

John Schmertmann, a retired University of Florida professor and a
consultant on foundations, agreed with Bea that the corps “may still be
embedding some of these not-properly-considered factors, so the new
walls may not do what the corps expects.”

Reducing such seepage might require the driving of sheet metal far
deeper into the ground than is done now, or some other solution, said
Bea, who was part of a team of experts sent by the National Science
Foundation to do an independent study of the levee failures during

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.

Nevertheless, the corps is concerned enough that for weeks, workers
have been analyzing the wet spots and digging a 160-foot-long,
10-foot-deep trench to zero in on the source. “We’re doing everything
we can to chase this down,” Jolissaint said.

17 thoughts on “NOLA Levee Leaking

  1. Ooooh, now can we hear another round from the assholes who think that they’re soooo smart, and would never build a city in an “unsafe” area?

  2. “…workers have been analyzing the wet spots…”
    What, they forgot to remember to use the bathroom??? How much money are the workers pulling down to watch SUPPOSED FLOOD PROTECTION LEAK??!? “yup, there’s moisture where we failed to address the marshy ground…yup yup…now pay me!”

  3. i suggest throwing in a couple pussywillows. we had this damn spot in the back yard and now it’s dry and we have a 30 ft pussywillow tree.

  4. Now, wait a minute. The “Netherlands” has been reclaimed from the sea since the Middle Ages; but because of “boggy ground” the Corps of Engineers can’t protect New Orleans?
    Does no one else remember the report from a professor (an expert in these matters) that the levees would have have to be rebuilt slowly and carefully in order to be effective? Advice that was ignored because it meant the process would be slow; too slow. So now the problem is “boggy ground”?

  5. Pansypoo – they won’t do it…that would be *gasp* helpful…and besides, Halliburton doesn’t have a Pussywillow branch…

  6. Willows work as well but you cannot EVER put water or sewage lines near them. Ever. You will have sewage or water every where in a few years. Other plants that work are sycamore, poplar, black willow, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, and bald cypress. What does work is buildings, streets, schools, and malls.
    And no I am not one of those who thinks NOLA should never be rebuilt. It just has to be done smarter and more cautiously this time around. PLAN it instead of hodge podge the place. So you lose a bit of the wildness of it. That is infinitely better than a catastrophic loss of life like we had the last time.
    Netherlands is vastly different than NOLA and they have had centuries of experience to try things and change them to see what works. Even so, they are having to rethink their dikes due to rising sea water and global climate change. They do not have huge hurricanes that batter the shit out of their dikes. That alone makes a huge difference as to how long they can last and how quickly they’d have to evacuate should flooding occur.

  7. RMJ, to be fair, this bunch seems to have more of a problem with “careful” than with “slow.”
    They should just stuff some newspaper in … never mind, it’s too easy and it’s not really funny anyway.

  8. But what will we stuff the levees with after Teh Intarwebz have killed print newspapers?

  9. Would somebody please take responsibility for NOLA and the lower Miss/Atchafalaya away from the Corps? Haven’t they proven themselves to be irremediable fuckups?
    Yes, I know this is futile plea…

  10. “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,” f
    Anyone want to bet that he doesn’t live downhill of the levees?

  11. Yep, yet another version of the Corps peeing on our legs and telling us it’s raining.
    Even thought it is coming down cats and dogs here right now…
    …but STILL…

  12. There’s always something to complain about and I think if they had built the levees slooooowwwwly, then they would have been accused of building too slow. And everyone wants back in their “homes” yesterday.

  13. Now I’m thinking about trying to get my friend Rustin interested in a greenroofing project in NOLA. Greenroofing is one way of stopping water from ever hitting the ground, and can be done using lightweight, inexpensive materials and off-the-shelf goods. (Rustin has prototyped several greenroofing projects for urban areas requiring exactly those specifications.)

  14. Interrobang,
    Thanks for the mention of Greenroofing. (I’d never heard of it. – interesting concept both from the concept of adding a real nice sanctuary to the house as well as thinking about what it could do to heating and cooling bills)

  15. i guess using newspaper instead of rubber gaskets didn’t work out so well.

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