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 The corps stuck to its outdated standards and measurements, even though it wouldn’t offer the same protection.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.