Live chat: Discuss city’s storm protection system with Tulane professor, Corps of Engineers official

Thursday, The Lens published an examination of the New Orleans flood protection system. Bob Marshall reported that the system was originally scoped out to protect against the worst storm that could be expected for the area. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Congress told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build to a 100-year standard.

“It’s as if your poorly built, three-story house collapsed, so the contractor said, ‘Ok, I’ll replace it with a well-made, two-story house,’” said Mark Davis, director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy.

Among the details:

  • Congress originally authorized the corps to build a system that could guard against the worst storm that could reasonably be foreseen.
  • Over the years, new research showed that storms would be worse — and land was sinking faster — than originally thought. The corps stuck to its outdated standards and measurements, even though it wouldn’t offer the same protection.
  • After Hurricane Katrina, Congress told the corps to rebuild the system to protect against a 100-year storm, a lower standard but one that would guarantee that residents could get flood insurance.
  • Experts agree that the new system is better than the poorly built one before. But some say it’s still inadequate.

Friday at noon, Mark Davis of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy and Ken Holder of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will join Bob Marshall in a live Web chat. They’ll discuss the story and its implications and hear from readers about the story.

Live chat

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About Steve Myers

Steve Myers is editor of The Lens. Before joining the staff in 2012, Myers was managing editor of Poynter Online, the preeminent source of news and training about the journalism industry. At Poynter, he wrote about emerging media practices such as citizen journalism, nonprofit news sites, real-time reporting via social media, data-oriented news apps, iPhoneography, and the fact-checking movement. Six of his 10 years in newspapers were spent as a local government reporter in Mobile, Ala., where he focused on local government accountability, from jail management to hurricane preparation and response. He can be reached at (504) 298-9750.

  • dimdingledon

    Can’t wait to hear the discussion. Over 7-1/2 years in the making. I predict this new flood protection/levee system will turn out to be one of the biggest frauds pulled on the people of New Orleans and the actions of the Corps of Engineers and the SLFPA-E will show they have participated in one of the biggest cover ups of a 14.7 billion dollar boon doggle that failed to deliver the required level of protection, all done while enriching a select few special interest groups and individuals at federal, state and local levels.

  • dimdingledon

    Once the truth surfaces, I believe it will be the beginning of the end for the SLFPA-E and the CPRA, neither of which provided any timely oversight of the work done by the Corps and both headed by individuals lacking any technical backgrounds on the subject matter they were tasked to oversee.

  • dimdingledon

    Sorry I wasn’t able to particpate at lunchtime. There was so much misinformation that was sidestepped by the Corps in that discusssion. Here are a few items that identify why the new system isn’t good enough for our area.
    1. The Corps didn’t rally have 152 different storms in their model. They had about 29 storm tracks that they just ran different intensity storms on over and over to get to 152. They excluded storms that made lnadfall in New Orleans and included storms that made landafall in Mobile AL. This artifically lowers the height of the storm surge we are to be protected against and causes all of the levees to be too low.
    2. The Corps used a 10 year rainfall event for determining the 100 year elevation. WRONG input that causes a lowering of the design requirements for pumping.
    3. The Corps used a combine total of 1 foot for subsidence and sea level rise. We’ve already exceeded these levels in some areas and it was supposed to last until 2055.
    4. The Corps made numerous design waivers to their own design criteria that resulted in substandard designs on the new system. Lots of uncoated steel, lower factors of safety, etc.
    5. The Corps blames Congress for the requirements. The Corps gave the input to Congress to set the requirements. The Corps set the requirements and now they want to blame Congress.
    6. The new system leaves out many needed design considerations like the need to pump water out of the IHNC corridor during storms. The Corps’ pkan did not include any pumping capacity while the gates are closed and the storage capacity they calculate in the corridor is too low for our actual flood threat.
    7. The Corps used outdated bathymetry in its storm surge modeling so the actual waves from overtopping will be greater than what they predict with their model.
    8. There were only a handful of individuals who knew the details of the modeling, the rest just repeated what they heard or were told. Over 1000 employees and over $100 million in annual payroll and benefits and not one independent thinker or one engineer that still uses good scientific facts in designs and establishiung design criteria. What a a waste of money.
    9. No review by the SLFPA-E or the CPRA for 7-1/2 years, but lots of talk as if they actually did something. They haven’t. It was a big sham.
    These are only a few items. I would love to hear what the Corps and the so-called experts have to say about these short-comings.

  • dimdingledon

    Holder can’t see the forest through the trees. He talks about pieces and not being a system in the past. That is the exact same thing we have today. They levees were designed with the intent ofhaving so-called multiple lines of defense. That is a part of the system that has not materialized. How can he call it a system when critical pieces are missing.