Unlearning Katrina’s lesson: Bills would again make levee board a governor’s plaything

Hurricane Katrina drove home a sobering lesson: playing politics with agencies responsible for flood defense could have horrific consequences.


Hurricane Katrina drove home a sobering lesson: playing politics with agencies responsible for flood defense could have horrific consequences.

Shreveport area State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, introduced different bills with different objectives in the 2014 legislative session, but the overall thrust of his legislative package has been consistent — to undermine the carefully crafted independence of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority, both its East and West Bank arms.

Voters backed levee board reform in 2006 and chose to insulate these two new regional flood protection authorities from political meddling (particularly, by the governor). Adley’s bills consistently countermand the voters’ insistence on independent flood protection authorities by attempting to move them under the power and control of the governor.

Adley’s SB 79 attacked the independence of the nominating committee process and sought to give the governor control over appointment of board members to the flood protection authorities. When that approach attracted sharp criticism from all quarters, he changed tactics and sought instead to give the governor greater power to remove board members. Either way, the effect was the same — to increase the power of the governor and diminish the independence of board members sworn to safeguard our lives and property in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Adley’s SB 629 would move the flood protection authorities from Article VI, the “Local Government” section of the Louisiana Constitution, to Article IV, the  “Executive Branch” section. By explicitly placing them “within the Coastal Protection Restoration Authority (CPRA) pursuant to R.S. 36:4(BB) as agencies within the executive branch of state government,” SB 629 would put the governor in charge of our two metropolitan-area flood protection authorities.

Most CPRA board members hold their positions via appointment by the governor and serve at his pleasure. CPRA’s executive director is “appointed by the governor and shall serve at the pleasure of the governor.” SB 629 would take away local governmental control of flood safety decisions and send that authority to Baton Rouge.

Now Adley is attempting to pass SB 553, which would give the governor control over contract procedures that have been governed in the past by approval of the state attorney general.

In Title 42 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes, two separate sections establish contract procedures for “any state board or commission” (Section 262) and for various local government enterprises (Section 263). Local political subdivisions (like the flood protection authorities) must get approval from the attorney general; state boards and commissions must get approval from both the governor and the attorney general.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East secured the approval of the attorney general, as required of political subdivisions governed by Section 263. But SB 553 would remove the flood protection authorities from Section 263 and put them under Section 262 — and it would do this retroactively!

Requiring approval from both the governor and attorney general would subject the two regional flood protection authorities to procedures that traditionally apply only to state government agencies.

Why should this be of concern to anyone other than constitutional lawyers? Here’s why:

In Louisiana, we place a high value on keeping local decisions at the local level of government. Our Louisiana Constitution recognizes this important principle in its “home rule” provision, the one that gives local jurisdictions protection against an unwelcome power grab by state government. SB 553 makes it entirely too easy to undermine the autonomy of a local government entity by simply taking it out of the “local government” law (Section 263) and moving it into a “state government” provision (Section 262), where the governor takes control.

With the author at the podium, over 1200 citizens rallied successfully for levee board reform on the steps of the Capitol, in February 2006

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans

With the author at the podium, over 1200 citizens rallied successfully for levee board reform on the steps of the Capitol, in February 2006

In the election of Sept. 30, 2006, voters overwhelming approved — by 81% —  the constitutional amendment creating the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities. These were to be politically independent levee districts and units of local government, the voters decreed.

They were voting to put public safety first, to create constitutional protection for two metro-area flood protection authorities, and to keep them out of politics (particularly, out of gubernatorial politics).

The political independence of these two regional flood protection authorities relies hugely on their status as political subdivisions. They are units of local (not state) government. They serve our metropolitan area flood protection needs and are no longer controlled by the governor, as metro-area levee boards were pre-Katrina.

These repeated legislative assaults on the political independence of the flood protection authorities would move them away from the protections of local government, weakening them by treating them as state agencies subject to the governor’s control.

That’s not what Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans fought for in 2006. That’s not what Louisiana voters approved when they passed the 2006 constitutional amendment.

But that is what SB 553 is now trying to accomplish, by chipping away at the authorities’ powers and treating them differently from other levee districts and political subdivisions in Louisiana.

This misguided legislation should be a warning to every local government agency in Louisiana: “Beware! With the stroke of a pen, you can lose your local autonomy and be placed under the control of a state agency.”

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities-East and -West are not and never have been state agencies. Like other Louisiana levee boards, they are political subdivisions and units of local government.

SB 553 simply overrides the voters’ 2006 constitutional approval of our regional flood protection authorities as independent units of local (rather than state) government. It moves the SLFPAs away from independence and puts them under the power and control of the Governor.

That wasn’t a good idea pre-Katrina. It’s still not a good idea.

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans urges legislators to stand with your constituents and vote against SB 553.

Ruthie Frierson is founder of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans.  

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  • Chris McLindon


    The “power grab” you describe is in fact a necessary exercise of authority by the legislature to rein in the levee board that was attempting a naked money grab. Melissa Landry, executive director of the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch makes the case for the illegitimacy of the lawsuit on a legal basis, but it is also scientifically invalid.

    The premise of the suit is that “hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal lands that once protected south Louisiana are now gone as a result of oil and gas industry activities”. In other words, as both John Barry and Gladstone Jones have said in public, up to 90% of the land area change that has occurred on the coast is due to the canals dug by oil and gas companies. In fact, as Bob Marshall reported in his May 7th Lens article, NOAA recognizes that natural subsidence combined with sea level rise is the principal driver of land area change.
    Barry and Jones have been pressing the suit on the basis that a financial judgement or settlement could be used to fund coastal restoration projects to repair the damage done by the oil companies. The land area change we have experienced is overwhelmingly due to subsidence and sea level rise, and no amount of money is going to reverse those processes.

  • Clay

    Melissa Landry was a communications major at LSU. She’s also a lobbyist. She has no technical background… And you’re citing her as an expert on what is scientifically valid.

    How about asking a real scientific expert, like Dr. Len Bahr:


  • dimdingledon

    Dr. Ruth is beating that dead horse again. She proclaimed Doody and Barry as “flood experts”, the founding fathers of modern flood protection” etc. They are really two guys that were in way over their heads and failed to do the job they were tasked to perform. Just look at all of the short-comings now being identified in the new HSDRRS. The Doody and Barry led board should have caught these in the design phase if they bothered to look at it. The problem is they didn’t even look at the stuff. What a failure.

  • Lee Barrios

    “This misguided legislation should be a warning to every local government agency in Louisiana: “Beware! With the stroke of a pen, you can lose your local autonomy and be placed under the control of a state agency.”

    Hello Ladies!! You have been big supporters of the Governor’s agenda to privatize public education via charters and vouchers – i.e. “….. lose your local autonomy and be placed under the control of a state agency (RSD/BESE/LDOE).” You failed to see that the local autonomy of elected school boards means control by the local citizenry whereas the so-called autonomy of charters takes control AWAY from the local citizenry and places it in the hands of non-elected charter boards and their for-profit management companies. Wake Up! The RSD is a failure and it has only been successful in removing local control of public schools.

  • dimdingledon

    If regional flood protectionw as the concern like Dr. Ruth claims, why is there no outrage by her when the legislature allowed the St. Tammany Parish Levee District to be created and not be under the SLFPA-E. So much for the lessons learned after Katrina. If the St. Tammnay Levee District can operate on its own, why can’t the Orleans and East Jefferson Levee Districts operate on their own. This legislation will be the beginning of the end for the SLFPA-E. Dr. Ruth is just trying to protect her friends on the New Orleans Business Council and their financial interests.

  • dimdingledon

    Dr. Ruth would like to keep the SLFPA-E as her, Tiny Tim and Big John’s play thing. Just look at how they manipulated legislation a few years ago to remove the seats in St. Chalres and St John Parishes even after the legislature created the SLFPA-E to be a regional board. Go find another toy and pet project Ruthie. Perhaps you can strike up support for the declining zoo.

  • While it’s true that the pre Katrina levee boards were controlled by the Governor, there is no credible evidence linking the actions of those boards to the levee/floodwall breaches. It was the Army Corps that failed the people of New Orleans. We found out we cannot trust the Army Corps to properly build levees, and we found out we needed a regional professional levee authority to watch over the Corps. Who knew?

    With New Orleans as the poster child, Louisiana was the first state in the entire nation to pass legislation removing distractions, replacing parochial flood control with regional control, and require professional expertise on its levee boards. WE NEED OUR LEVEE AUTHORITIES.

  • Roy Arrigo

    My knowledge of this board is not limited to what the media and the massive PR campaign from the Citizens for 1 tell me about it. I have attended the meetings of this cesspool of corruption since it was formed in 2007. This board has been a complete disaster. The efforts of Citizens for 1 in 2006 with their “1 Levee Board” Campaign was nothing more than replacing one corrupt levee board made up of political appointees with a board of experts who were lead by and would go along with a couple of non-experts who were far more corrupt than the previous board.

    The role of those two non-experts was to direct the flow of that board’s massive budget back int the hands of those who positioned them there. Those who positioned them there create a multitude of organizations with names designed to give the appearance that they represent a consensus of the population. Those names would lead one to believe that they represent the citizens of Greater New Orleans or that they are a council that represents all of the businesses, or that they are a group of people who want to move New Orleans forward, but in reality, all that they want to do is move the public’s money into their own pockets.

    After this board was in operation for three years, John Barry and Ruthie Frierson along with several of her followers, had a bill drafted in secret that drastically changed the make-up of this board and the nominating process. They changed the jurisdiction of the board, and removed professional positions from it. They changed the number of members on it and they removed expert engineering and scientific societies from having init of the members.

    The reasons that they gave for these secret changes were false. With no input from the legislature, they themselves decided to change the make-up of the board and it’s nominating committee because they had decided that the legislation did not accurately reflect what THEY decided was the legislature’s intentions! Even the SLFPA-E board had no knowledge of John Barry and Ruthie’s changes.

    It seems that John Barry and Ruthie Frierson feel that this is their own little board and that they are the only ones with the right to determine the make-up and nominating process for the is board.

    Watch it unfold before your very eyes.


  • Roy Arrigo

    Could the real reason behind this secretly concocted lawsuit be somewhere in this letter from John Barry’s friend and SLFPA-E board president Tim Doody? Until just before this letter was written, John Barry was a board member who was replaced before he was replaced, he was the liasion between the board and the lawyer, after he was replaced, he went on to form a non-profit.

  • Roy Arrigo

    Lee, their levee board ‘reform’ of 2006 was also a miserable failure. I am beginning to see more and more eye’s rolling by our legislators when these ladies in red appear in the commitee rooms. They have worn out their welcome and the legislators can now see right through their misguided agenda. The votes on these bills which this small handful of political individuals have worked so hard to oppose will reveal how much belief the legislature puts in what the ladies in red say. With the exception of a few of the New Orleans delegation, they are all washed up in Baton Rouge.

  • dimdingledon

    Perhaps Mr. Barry can provide the readers a copy of his reviews of the Corps’ storm surge modeling and levee designs. Perhaps he can explain why he feels a combined total of 1 foot for subsidence and sea level rise is adequate when on portions of the new system the levees alone have subsided over 1 foot and these levees were supposed to meet the criteria until 2055. Perhaps he can explain the logic and results of the storm surge modeling that was used to set the levee elevations. And why storms making landfall in New Orleans were excluded in the suite of storms and storms making landfall in Mobile, Alabama. Or why there weren’t really 152 storms as they’ve told us, but actually about twenty something storm tracks with mutiple storms run over and over those same tracks to get 152 storms. I guess that doesn’t sound as pretty as what we’ve been told for the past 7-1/2 years but at least it is the truth.

  • dimdingledon

    Sandy what good are they if they refuse to do the jib they were cretaed to do? Hear it in their own words that they will not review the Corps work. How much more proof does own need that this board is useless when it comes to flood protection and flood control.

  • dimdingledon

    This isn’t the first time Doody tried to pay Barry via the SLFPA-E checkbook and it probaly won’t be the last. When Barry’s first term expired, Doody and Barry planned to hire Barry as a paid consultant until they were told it violated state law. Then the Doody/Barry led SLFPA-E passed a resolution that resulted in paying tens of thousands of dollars to Barry that violated the state travel regulations which would not paid Barry for the travel to and from his own place of domicile. Now they are trying thpaid consultant angle again. And just where is the promised reform in all of this?

  • dimdingledon

    NOLA you better look again. The experts are not in control and they are not on top of anything. They haven’t even looked at this stuff. See for yourself.

  • dimdingledon

    This board is not independent of politics. Its just a different crowd whose politics they pomote. They have failed at the task of providing flood protection to protect against our actual flood threat.

  • Hi Dim, I am suggesting that we need our levee authorities because we found out–the hard way–that we cannot trust the Corps to build levees and flood walls when the intended use is to protect people from flooding. (The Corps is apparently great at building navigation levees.)

    Here, you seem to be saying that the current commissioners are not doing their job. So, going forward, what do you suggest?

  • Roy Arrigo

    Mr. Barry,

    If you feel that the legislature does not have the authority to act here, why was the creation of this suit intentionally hidden from them by you, Tim Doody and Bob Lacour? This board was created by this legislature. Don’t they have the right to alter it’s makeup/role? In 2006, you changed the make-up of this board and the nominating committee. Do you feel that privilege belongs to you and NOT to our elected officials?

  • Roy Arrigo
  • Nolaresident

    So was there a reply from the Ethics Board? That was written in Oct.-13, has the Board replied yet?

  • Roy Arrigo

    It has been like pulling teeth. Here is what i have found so far. It seems to have fallen into limbo. The request was given a docket number which means it was put on the list to answer. However, no response seems to have been given. I continue to work on getting to the bottom of what they were told. My guess is that no response seems to have been given and that those involved went ahead and made the financial arrangements anyway.

    There are explanations why the stratagey of the lawsuit would be kept secret, and that is allowed by law. There is NO ABOVE-BOARD REASON for the selection of the lawyer and for the payment terms to be kept secret, and that is not allowed by law. To do so would not have tipped off anyone. This board has previously solicited (advertised for) for lawyers with experience in suing oil and gas companies in the past and it did not tip any one off of their intentions.

    Is it possible that one person secretly made all of these arrangements, including to pay this attorney’s expenses, then that same person then went on the payroll and became one of the expenses that he contracted for? That would almost be the same as a board member cutting a deal with themselves.

    From another LENS story:


    Lacour (the board’s in-house counsel) said the board did not publicly solicit firms to apply because that would have revealed its legal intentions, which would have jeopardized its options.

    “The Legislature was in session at the time, and it was our feeling if some members knew about this they might have taken action to prevent us from proceeding,” he said.

    Though Lacour later stated that Mr. Marshal was wrong about what Lacour said, I called Mr. Marshall and he assured me that because of the double quotes, he stood by those exact words by Lacour. he says that he has them recorded.

    Recording of a related discussion:


  • Roy Arrigo

    Nolaresident, please review the documentation that I have posted here. I don’t just spout off things like turning the clock back, or preserving the board’s independence like others here. I make statements and post documentation to support those facts. I’d be curious to here your opinion after having reviewed that documentation.

  • dimdingledon

    I posted but it got removed.

  • Nolaresident

    Roy I have to be completely honest and say I that I take your positions with a grain of salt because I know of the personal agenda you have with the SLFPA-E over some land that was taken from you dealing with one of the canals or something. I have seen yous rants online so much about that issue so that to me, it gives a bias to your statements. I will say you are passionate about your positions and beliefs but your personal agenda, in my opinion, harms your arguments.

  • dimdingledon

    I welcome balance of power. I just don’t want the balance to be controlled by individuals that are not educated on the subject they are controlling. When Barry was appointed to the SLFPA-E he didn’t even know what 100-year protection was. Now the media, the mayor, the political groups from uptown and the New Orleans Business Council call him and Doody flood experts. And the moon is made of cheese.

  • dimdingledon

    You don’t need to take it with a grain of salt. Mr. Arrigo and the homeowners along the outfall canals are more knowledgeable about the facts and laws than the members of the SLFPA-E and their attorneys. I’ve seen both in person and the homeowners are usually right.

  • dimdingledon

    The levee boards pay 35% of the total cost of the levee projects. They should have a vested interest in making sure the projects are done right and not just giving a check for 35% of the cost to the Corps of Engineers and not inspecting whether the designs and constrcution are right.

  • dimdingledon

    NOLA Barry didn’t even know what 100-year protection was when he was appointed to the SLFPA-E. Be careful who you call a technical expert. Your flood protection system will reflect it.

  • dimdingledon

    I suggest you attend a SLFPA-E meeting and ask one of the technical members (engineers or scientists) if they personally reviewed any of th Corps’ storm surge modeling or levee designs. I think you would be shocked that they didn’t even look at the stuff as baord members. The only two members that would have seen the modeling is Kemp and Leutich. Kemp did storm surge modeling when he was with the LSU Hurricane Center. And Leutich helped write the ADCIRC program the Corps used for the storm surge modeling. But they didn’t become board members until 2010 and 2011, respectively. From 2007 – 2010, no one even looked at the stuff the Corps was doing regarding the modeling. They all just said it was good and state of the art without knowing any technical details.
    That is why we now have a levee system that is too low to protect us from our actaul flood threat. The unreviewed storm surge model was used to set the heights of the new levees. We have another system in name only (ASINO).

  • dimdingledon

    And fault is not just on the SLFPA-E. The Corps of Engineers has over 1000 employees at the New Orleans District and an annual payroll well over $100 million and contracted tens of billions of dollars since Katrina. In my opinion not one techncially competent person there either. If there was they could have seen the short-comings of the storm surge modeling and levee designs. USELESS!

  • Ok, we’re getting somewhere. You’re suggesting we remove all the currently appointed personnel on the Authority East, but not change the laws.

    Regarding disciplinary actions taken at the Corps, you could not be more right! Even though the Corps was found negligent by the U.S. District Court of LA in designing the 17th Street and London Avenue Canal flood walls, and in maintaining the MRGO, no one at the Corps even lost a PARKING SPOT!!!!

    Regarding disciplinary actions taken at the OLD, none is called for. Because there is no credible evidence linking the actions of the pre Katrina OLD with the flooding during Katrina. No court has found them guilty of anything. The credible studies, meaning those published after 2007, also found nothing.

  • dimdingledon

    I disagree with you regarding the OLD. The OLD had no money to settle a large class action suit so everyone went after the feds. That does not mean the OLD wasn’t guilty. The insurer for the OLD paid out the maximum limit of its liability coverage, $10 million. An insurer doesn’t just give away $10 million for no reason. The leaders at the OLD failed to insure the Corps’ levee design and design criteria met the flood protection needs Orleans Parish pre-KAtrina and post-Katrina. Both acts were grossly negligent and deserving of termination.

  • dimdingledon

    As far as the SLFAP-E goes if a baord member can’t produce one document showing they reviewed and approved (signed off on) the designs and design criteria of the Corps, they obviously haven’t done anything since 2007 and are deserving of termination.

  • Roy Arrigo

    I never said I didn’t have an axe to grind or that I wasn’t biased. It’s not about me, it’s about the documentation that I have provided. Its about the facts, documents and recordings that I have provided. Those are kind of hard to dispute.

  • dimdingledon

    Keep in mind laws are changing and no one is making any noise. When the SLFPA-E was created it was intended to control drainage in the entire Lake Pontchartrian Basin. A few years ago Barry and Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans were in Baton Rouge and had the seats in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes removed. Now the legislature allowed St. Tammany Parish to create a levee district and not be part of the SLFAP-E and no one is complaining about the intent of the original law to control the drainage on the Lake Pontchartrian Basin. So it is obvious to me that forces other than science is controlling this process.
    Either run it based on science or abolish it and quit pretending its based on science.

  • Roy Arrigo

    In light of your comments, please explain how allowing 24+ legacy and other future lawsuits to go forward, and blocking this one put-together-in-secret lawsuit constitutes allowing the oil companies to get of of the hook? Wouldn’t it appear that this is more a situation of holding those oil companies accountable and having a problem with one specific suit that is questionable? Please explain.

  • dimdingledon

    The shipping industry does the very thing you are talking about on a daily basis. Removing valuabe resources while destroying valuable reesources and not being held responsible for their destructive practices. The levees along the river are for the benefit of the shipping industry. The levees take fresh water and nutrients from getting to the marsh resulting in land loss. Every wake of a ship causes land loss. Every dredging of a channel is sediment robbed from the marsh. Every piece of marsh we lose is the more vulnerable we become to storm surges. The confinement of the Mississippi River to the levees is the number one casue of land loss in our region, but the shipping industry is a scared cow with the SLFPA-E.

  • I am afraid you are not right. In this case, a settlement is absolutely not an admission of wrong doing. The settlement money came from insurance proceeds resulting from policies the levee districts held on the levees. So naturally, one might wonder why the insurance companies would pay if the claims are not true. Here’s why.

    Insurance companies have a risk of being found in bad faith for refusing a bona fide settlement offer within or at policy limits. Explained more simply, if an insurer refuses to pay a proposed settlement, they could potentially become liable for the full amount of any future settlement or a judgment even if it exceeds their policy limits.

    The total damages claimed by the plaintiffs for the levee and floodwall failures designed and built by the Army Corps of Engineers were many many billions of dollars. In this case, the insurers each had the choice to pay $5 million or roll the dice and possibly end up bankrupt. (Twenty million divided by four because a post Katrina flood authority was also named in the suit.) If the insureds win, they save the $5 million each minus the legal expenses of a trial. And if they lose, the insurer could potentially face a possible bad faith judgment for billions of dollars. It’s not hard to see why a rational insurer would choose to settle!


    In closing, we understand why folks who are not attorneys or insurance agents might consider a settlement an admission of wrongdoing either wholly or partially. But, in this case a settlement is just that, and nothing more.

  • Clay

    If you’re so concerned about board members with technical background, how come you never said a word when Dr. Tornqvist, the head of Tulane’s geology department, was passed over for Joe Hassinger, a lawyer with no technical background?


    So, you’re perfectly happy that Hassinger sits on SELFPA-E?

    Barry has serious technical creds. Rising Tide and The Great Influenza both took on serious technical topics and were praised by experts in the field. Try picking either up and reading it. Furthermore, he sits on an MIT advisory board (MITcesf) and has received plaudits from the National Academy of Sciences.

    Just go and read Rising Tide. I promise you’ll enjoy it.

  • Clay
  • Clay

    You claim there hasn’t been a single bit of oversight by SELFPA-E on the Corps…

    Here’s SELFPA-E taking the Corps to task for no corrosion allowance on piping:


    At the 2011 Tulane Engineering Forum, both SELFPA-E & SELFPA-W gave presentations on their Quality Assurance oversight of Corps work.

    Here’s the West presentation:
    (The East one was never posted by Tulane, but I can assure you it was along the same lines).

    There’s a great overview in there on the nuts & bolts process of the handover is done, too.

    Here’s some quotes from an East board inspector:


    SLFPA has done a decent job of Quality Assurance.

    You assert that the oversight should extend all the way to the very early design assumptions of the Corps. That’s unreasonable. The SLFPA budget is $10?, $20? Million a year (something like that) with less than 100 employees. The Army Corps of Engineers has >36,000 employees and an annual budget in the billions. The Corps has a Vicksburg office that’s got some of the best hydrodynamicists in the world (granted, the Corps doesn’t always listen to them)… There isn’t the budget to build up SLFPA into something that can deal on equal terms with the Corps. Re-running the computational fluid dynamics models upon which the levee design is based upon is far more onerous than you imagine.

  • Clay

    “80% of the change to natural subsidence plus sea level change.”

    So, about the last ~20%… You admit that it’s due to the dredging of the canals?

  • dimdingledon

    Not true. The insurance company had a 10 million dollar limit and just wanted to get out. They knew they were liable for the 10 million as a result of the negligence of the OLD. Why pay legal fees and the 10 million. So the insurer cut the check.

  • We agree. Clay is right when he says, “there isn’t the budget to build up SLFPA into something that can deal on equal terms with the Corps.” These guys are a bunch of volunteers.

  • Your statements are untrue. Bill Kohlmann, a property casualty insurance broker in New Orleans with more than 30 years of experience, offered up this observation on the issue:

    “If they win, it will still cost them the cost of defense, which would be millions each, and if they turn down a settlement offer within policy limits, then they could be liable for many billions if they lose. It’s a no-brainer for the insurance companies to settle in a case like this, even if they believe that the allegations are without merit.”

    In this case, a settlement is just that, and nothing more.

  • dimdingledon

    Too much Tulane involvement on the board now, with Barry and the illegal pier in the canal. No one wanted to add more Tulane drama.
    Barry doesn’t have technical credentials to be on this board and certainly lacks the credentials to lead the board. He doesn’t know how to calculate storm surges or design levees yet he goes on TV and makes statements about both as if he knows the material thoroughly. If he was such the health guru he proclaims he should have been in the spotlight while influenza rates in the country were escalating intead of chasing the big payday suing the oil companies. If the MIT board is as much a facade as the SLFPA-E board, qualifications mean nothing. Its just a lot of hot air and PR pieces.
    Regarding Hassinger, there needs to be an attorney on the board to stop the ex-football coach from running wild. I guess Barry was the original WILDCAT.

  • dimdingledon

    The liability of the OLD was in the stratosphere. The SLFPA-E got a judge to rule not to allow siezure of assets so that stopped attorneys from filing suit against the OLD. Why file and win if you can’t collect. But there was no dispute in how negligent they were. The sandbagged gate at the Industrial Canal that failed, the failure to verify the heights of the levees and floodwalls for decades, the failure to act on seepage along the outfall canals, the failure to identify vulnerabilities in the old levees and floodwalls, etc

  • You need to supply source data to back up your statements, as I have.

  • Chris McLindon

    This is the most informative diagram from the Penland et al paper. They attribute 8% to shoreline erosion, but at least a portion of that is also due to subsidence. The actual correct submergence value is probably closer to 90%.

  • Clay

    What’s your problem with Tulane? Is there anyone else on the SELFPA-E board with a Tulane affiliation (don’t know, just asking)? You think that a lawyer knows more about levees than the head of the geology department?

  • dimdingledon

    Doody’s law firm repersents Tulane. Tulane has the majority of the judges in the courts in the area. Tulane gets special treatment. As Barry says no one is above the law. I just call it like I see it. Ithink those legislative scholarships are nothing more than legalized bribes – quid pro quo. From their track record, to me they seem to be ethically challenged.

  • dimdingledon

    Too time consuming to list the volumes of infomation this would entail.

  • Oh please.

    John Ruskin, who is a New Orleans attorney with advanced degrees in engineering, has weighed in with this:

    “The absence of a judge or jury decision based on trial evidence opens an opportunity for aggressive pundits to find “proof” in the mere existence of a settlement. I prefer the sedate view that the proof is in the evidence.”

  • Clay

    Here is the actual Penland, et. Al. paper from 1990.


    “This study determined canals directly contributed 6% to the coastal land loss between 1954-1978, the remaining 94% unknown.” The article never disputes that canals are not a significant cause, nor does it say that none of the 94% couldn’t be attributable to canals. To say that Penland proved that canals had no effect on coastal loss is grossly negligent.

    That was 25 years ago and there are many papers published since.

    Here’s one published in 2000 by Day, et. Al.:


    It attributes a minimum of 9.2% of land loss to canals, although not the majority, as another author suggests. “We agree with Turner that canals are an important agent in causing wetland loss in coastal Louisiana.”

    You continue to cherry pick quotes to support your assertion that canals are an insignificant part of coastal loss, even when the studies you cite state the exact opposite.

  • Clay

    Doody is an accountant and hasn’t stood up defending Tulane in any courtroom (Hassinger has, BTW). Tulane is also the largest private employer in the state of Louisiana. Lots of people have business dealings with Tulane and almost 100% of companies have some sort of dealing with Tulane at some time or another.

    Tulane is also a hell of a school. It has, by a large margin, the highest academic standards in the state.

    Tulane hates the legislative scholarships and want them eliminated.

    There’s no other link on the whole board to Tulane? You still haven’t said what your problem with Tulane is.

  • dimdingledon

    They get to put an unpermitted/illegal pier in the outfall canal via John Barry another Tulane employee. They hire Gladstone Jones another Tulane grad and relative of a Tulane administrator. Many of Tulane grads in the NOBC that is pulling the strings on all decisions. They got rid of the engineering program after Katrina but was allowed to stay on the selection committee that was held by the engineering department.

  • dimdingledon

    If you can’t see the negligent acts of the OLD then you deserve the flood protection system they provide you. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. What other state agency pays 35% of the cost of an item and has no accountability as you suggest. The leaders of the OLD were negligent by failing to act in a professional manner for decades with the levee inspections. Entire sections of levees were not there. Yet no one at the OLD noticed or bothered to checkced one time in decades. The OLD was so bad in the 1990’s the Corps pulled work from the OLD and did it themselves. Now that is pretty bad when the Corps who could not design levees to standup calls out the OLD. How can you say they had no part in the failures. An omission to perform one’s duty is not innocence.

  • dimdingledon

    That is the Tim Doody line. But it does not take the dollars you think to look at this stuff most of it is just common sense stuff. To begin with you look at a project during the design phase not after its been constructed. During the design ohase you look at the design criteria and assumptions to see if the intended design meets you anticipated goal. SLFPA-E did none of this.

  • If you’re referring to the “drive by levee inspections,” responsibility for those belonged solely to the Army Corps. And besides, there’s no evidence that poor maintenance contributed to the levee failures.


    Again, there is no credible evidence linking the actions of the pre Katrina OLD with the levee failures in 2005. And no court has found them guilty of anything. We have even asked the Corps, if you think about it, the organization with the most to gain, that IF the OLD was negligent, could the Corps provide documentation on it? They could not provide anything. We asked them to put that in writing. Here it is.


  • dimdingledon

    I can show anyone in less than 1 hour how badly the storm surge modeling was and how the 152 storms are not as advertised. It was a sham to meet the budget the Corps prepared for Congress. No designs were even thought of when the budgets were finalized.

  • dimdingledon

    There was no bad faith by the insurer. They were trying to shove money into the OLD because they new they had liability. Why fight and lose when you have to pay 10 million anyway. Just pay the 10 ,million

  • Margie Vicknair-Pray

    DDDon, Chris, & Roy,

    I fought to close down MRGO in the 1980s, so I understand the issues of wave
    activity, subsidence, and marsh destruction fairly well. That is a secondary issue right now. If there are no marshes left to fight over
    (and no Southeast LA), who gets to be on the SLFPA-E board becomes a rhetorical
    question. Saying that, putting the
    SLFPA-E back into the hands of politicians who have already proven that they
    care nothing for the state or its long term health, is idiocy.

    I disagree with you 100% on Senator Adley’s motives. All of his bills, including the one he
    quietly handed off to Allain, seek to cripple the State to the point where we
    will be entirely at the mercy of oil and gas, or all other corporations that ignore
    the laws of the state. His bills do nothing, and I repeat that – NOTHING – to make
    amends for a poorly done lawsuit (i.e. according to your views) except kill all
    possibility that agencies of the State of Louisiana will ever be able to sue a
    corporation for criminal damages to the environment, or possibly for anything. As one of Jindal’s own legal advisors (attorney
    Jimmy Faircloth), told the press, once the ability of the State to sue is
    crippled by this legislation, even if the existing SLFPA-E lawsuit is
    exempted from the legislation, the fact that all such future actions
    are forbidden will in itself kill the existing lawsuit. So they make it sound better by de-authoring
    Adley and adding language which pretends to be less offensive, knowing that it
    will accomplish the same result – saving oil and gas companies from paying for
    the reparations to the marshes that they caused and BY LAW were supposed to
    fix. Poor oil and gas – if we make them follow the law they might just get up
    and leave! Psss! Hate to tell you, but they already moved the top jobs! We need
    an educated board, not political hacks who drop and kiss backsides at the whim
    of the governor and greasy CEOs.

    Keep the governor and other politicians out of the SLFPA-E.
    It seems to me that we could dig up people who are willing to stand up to the
    governor, oil and gas interests and shipping if we look at the academic and
    scientific members of the community – and I’m not talking LOGA hand-picked
    geologists, I’m talking people not in the pocket of the oil and gas industry,
    or the governor’s. And for that matter, not all experts are necessarily
    scientists. I’m not a “scientist” but that doesn’t mean that I know nothing
    about this subject. I could find a dozen
    other citizens who I would trust unreservedly to deliver honest deliberation
    who have great knowledge and no connection to the oil and gas industry or Governor

    But additionally, you paint a simplified picture. DDDon
    talks of levees being the problem. Well, fine, I agree to a point, but blowing
    up levees means that everyone and everything on the other side is instantly
    gone or not likely to last long. I’m all for rebuilding delta, but in this
    highly populated and litigious world. Saying that the levees are maintained for
    shipping interests is an exaggeration – there’s so much more involved. And that
    takes us back to the marshes – levees or not, we need marshes. And to restore marshes, we need money. And to get money, I’d much prefer that we go
    to one of the major sources of the problem, oil and gas. I didn’t destroy any
    marshes, so I don’t think that my tax dollars should be paying for it when
    there is an industry out there that made billions from Louisiana’s resources
    and has yet to fix this problem in which they are a major player.

  • Margie Vicknair-Pray

    Roy, I’ve answered in the post that addresses you, Chris and DDDon. Please write if you have further questions and I’ll answer.

  • I have published discussions of the settlement issue, and backed up those discussions with expert commentary, in The Advocate and the Huffington Post. Can you provide published expert commentary supporting your theory that the insurance companies “knew they had liability?”

  • Margie Vicknair-Pray

    Chris, As above, I’ve answered some of your questions in the multi-answer to you, Roy and DDDon. But on subsidence, yes it is real and affects us here in south Louisiana, but I haven’t studied up on reports to know how much contribution the recent predictions allow. I do know that we – southeast Louisiana – sit on top of miles of deltaic muds that are slowly sliding into the Gulf. But although subsidence is happening, the sped-up process of fragmentation and destruction of the coastal marshes has happened because of man’s negative intervention, and one of the most deadly of those man-made interventions has been the oil and gas industry’s dredging of canals and pipeline right-of-ways.

    Rivers and bayous meander, and each incoming wave, whether generated by natural actions or ships passing, ricochets off the s-curves and dies out in a relatively quick and not too destructive fashion. Oil and gas canals (and most other man-made intrusions) tend to be straight, leaving the wave actions to go un-subdued on their path of destruction, and allowing salt waters to be pushed easily up the canals into areas of brackish and fresh water marsh, hastening their death.

    You say above that “All of these factors cry out for a process that would be open to public discussion, and would willingly seek the advice and consent of the state legislature. That is what Adley’s bill is
    trying to accomplish.” Well, as I say in my multi-answer above, I believe that to be hogwash. Adley’s bill is
    going to accomplish much, much more, and none of it positive for the State or its marshes. If I believed that all that Adley wanted to do was force the lawsuit to be reworked, I would have no problem backing him. But as I point out, that is not what will be accomplished, and if it truly WERE what he wanted to accomplish then he should let this go to court, allow the courts to throw it out as a bad piece of legalese, and then propose legislation that would help state agencies prepare good legal arguments against corporations that have ignored our state laws! What Adley proposes will handicap and hobble the State for eternity and is probably one of the worst pieces of self-destructive legislation to ever hit any state legislature. Show me the equivalent legislation in ANY other state. I want to see where other states thought that it was a great idea to give up their ability to sue a lawbreaker.

  • Margie Vicknair-Pray

    Chris, additionally, I was just reading that over a month ago the SLFPA-E attorneys made an offer to reduce their fees: “(SLFPA-E) would accept mutually agreed upon or arbitrated fees from any defendant who comes to the table and settles the lawsuit within six months.” (reported by David Hammer, WWL-TV Eyewitness News in early April)

    The Jindal administration replied that this was “empty rhetoric,” and refused to discuss it, and the oil and gas industry spokesperson, Don Briggs of LOGA, said: “If these attorneys are truly concerned for the citizens and taxpayers of Louisiana, then they will do what’s right for the people and dismiss this suit altogether.”

    That’s right, how dare the opposition suggest a fair deal! That’s unheard of in the industry!

  • dimdingledon

    I guess the SLFPA-E Qulaity Assurance oversight of the Corps work was so good that the article in The LEns yesterday identifying that the new system is weaker than it was supposed to be is fiction. The actions of the SLFPA-E post-Katrina are the samne as the OLD pre-KAtrina. They both just failed to deliver the goods. No court has proved the SLFPA-E to be at fault for giving us another inadequate system, but the doesn’t change the fact that they gave us another inadequate system.

  • dimdingledon

    Clay you stated review of the design assumptions are unreasonable. That is the beginning of
    Quality Control. Garbage In = Garbage Out.

  • dimdingledon

    The SLFPA-E had contracts in place with world class engineering firms to act as the in-house engineering section for the authority and to review the Corps designs. The Doody/Barry led board just elected not to give these firms any task orders and the contracts expired. The Doody/Barry led board awarded the bulk of the work at that time to the firm that designed the
    floodwalls that failed along the London Avenue Canal which happened to employee the brother of one commissioner and was the former employer of senior staff members at SLFPA-E and the OLD.

  • Clay

    Your terminology is completely wrong, but you do have a point.

    QA/QC date back about 100 years to ASME Pressure Vessel Code (and the concept of an “Owner’s Agent” goes back to the time of the Pharoh’s).

    What you are talking about is more like Peer Review.

    Peer Review has been mandated by Congress on the Corps since the WRDA of 2006, unfortunately that hasn’t always been followed.

    Dr. John T. Christian PE was on several peer review committees for the Corps. The Peer Review committees had members of academia, consulting engineers, and Corps Engineers from other districts. For example, sometimes they’d tap Vicksburg to look over hydraulic models.

    According to Dr. Christian, sometimes the Corps listed to the Peer Review feedback and sometimes the Corps “viewed it as a box to be checked” (his exact words) and blew off the peer review committee.

    Peer Review can only work with the cooperation of the original design team (the New Orleans Corps District, in this case). If the design engineers don’t cooperate, peer review falls flat, period. I saw that as an engineer who’s personally had his designs subjected to peer review.

    Dr. Christian called out Corps publicly on several occasions. He never hid his views. What’s happened to the project managers at the Corps that he’s called out? Welp, they’re still there.

    If the Corps doesn’t want to listen, there is no mechanism to force them. What, exactly, would you propose?

  • Responding to this comment is outside our mission, and better directed to Clay.

    MISSION: Levees.org is devoted to educating America on the facts associated with the 2005 catastrophic flooding of the New Orleans region. We do this because the survivors deserve the vetted facts.

  • dimdingledon

    Quality Assurance on the design begins with the design. To be ISO certified private companies have to have written quality control plans for their designs, the reviews of their designs and the approvals of their designs. The process is done through the construction and operation phases to include the full life cycle of the project design. This is all done in-house so it is not a peer review which is performed outside of an organizartion.
    Neither the Corps nor the SLFPA-E had or wanted a system like this in place to review the proposed new system. As you stated many indiiduals tried to identify short-comings early on, but the Corps and the SLFPA-E were both very territorial and led by individuals who did not know what they were getting into. Ego-driven leaders who put their personal agendas above the public interests.

  • By law, the Corps does not have to do what the SLFPFA wants. By law, the Authority can only comment. Garret Graves testified on Feb. 7, 2013:

    “Under the current terms of the Corps’ Project Partnership Agreements, the corps retains ‘exclusive control’ over key terms of these agreements, in addition to general immunity, while the nonfederal sponsor’s role is largely reduced to that of a bystander — hardly that of a “partner …”

  • Clay

    Even Dilbert knows that ISO == QA.


    Holy bejesus, if you are expecting ISO to keep us safe, we’re all going to drown. ISO is sweet-smelling garbage.

    The Corps & SLFPA aren’t the same organization. They don’t share any common management. The Corps is under a District Commander who reportsuultimately to Congress. SLFPA is a state entity.

    Forget SLFPA. The Corps doesn’t always listen to the Corps!

    The Corps doesn’t always follow its own internal specifications & procedures. That’s been documented over and over. That’s not exactly a revelation. Complain to Congress; that’s supposed to be the oversight on the Corps.

  • Margie Vicknair-Pray

    Clay and Chris, it is obvious to me that you have never flown over southeast Louisiana coastal wetlands. I’d highly recommend that you do a flyover from New Orleans down towards Grand Isle and then up towards Houma/Thibodaux. You can do this on Google Earth nowadays, instead of in helicopters as I did. Then you tell me again that oil and gas canals have 20% or less to do with the marshes fragmentation. If you can honestly do that, you should be selling bridges.

  • Clay

    MR Pittman Construction (which, if memory serves, built the 17th Street Canal walls that failed) is defunct. Who are you referring to?

    I also think Pittman did the London Ave. Canal Walls.

    There is a new Pittman Construction out that was started by the son of the owner of MR Pittman, but I’m not aware of him doing anything for the Corps.

  • Clay

    There is a bit of scientific uncertainty as to which is the bigger factor (levees or dredged canals) and to what degree.

    There have been NUMEROUS studies to try and put a number on what’s attributable to what.

    Here’s just a few studies:

    Coleman, James M., Harry H. Roberts, Robert Spence Tye. Causes of Louisiana Coastal Land Loss: A Report Prepared for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. 1985.

    Josselyn, Michael N., et al. Scientific assessment of coastal wetland loss, restoration and management in Louisiana. Coastal Education and Research Foundation, 1994.
    Citations: 381

    Day, John W., et al. “Pattern and process of land loss in the Mississippi Delta: a spatial and temporal analysis of wetland habitat change.” Estuaries 23.4 (2000): 425-438.
    Citations: 256

    Turner, R. Eugene. “Wetland loss in the northern Gulf of Mexico: multiple working hypotheses.” Estuaries 20.1 (1997): 1-13.
    Citations: 191

    The list goes on and on. The lowest level that can be definitively linked to canals is on the 5-10% range. Some peer reviewed studies, when including indirect effects, put the total as high as 60% (that figure is mentioned in this summary of the Josselyn study mentioned above: http://www.eco-hydrology.com/boesch%20jcr20%20exsum.pdf ).

    I have no idea where in that range the correct answer is, but it is definitely somewhere in that range (5-50%). Even on the lowest end of the scale (5%), that’s well over 100 square miles (about 5 times the size of Manhattan).

    I have also flown over those wetlands. In certain areas, like near the Wagon Wheel (near Southwest Pass), it’s self-evident that canals had a major impact. In others, like, near Wax Lake Outlet, there’s little evidence of canals having an effect.

    I hope that clarifies things.

  • dimdingledon

    The firm I was referring to was the design firm (Burk). By the way the new Pittman Construction has done over $80 million in work for the Corps since Katrina and is part of the team on the new pump station contract that’s over wroth over $500 million.

  • Clay

    Burk-Kleinpeter designed the London Avenue walls.

    Eustis and Modjeski & Master’s designed the 17th Street Canal wall that failed.


    M&M is a national firm that’s also involved with the Huey Long Bridge Expansion.

  • Clay

    Both Barry and Doody are now gone.

    What are you now expecting a Joe Hassinger-led board to do differently, exactly?

    Are you expecting a $10-m contract to Delft University to remodel the Corps’ CFD models? {Delft is kinda like the MIT of the Netherlands and is world-renowened for hydrodynamic modelling}.

    SELFPA-E still has the same relationship with the Corps (the terms of whiwhich a set by the Feds, not the state) aand also lanlandowners along the canals still aren’t bought out (like they probably should have been in 2005)… What’s been accomplished?

  • Clay

    Both Doody & Barry are now gone and any day now Jindal will have appointed the majority of the board…

    And how, exactly, will a Joe Hassinger-led board operate differently?

    Will they buy out landowners who abut the canals? I agree with you that that probably should have been done back in 2005, but do you really expect that to happen under the new board?

    And what happens if there is no buy-out? Will you call for Hassinger’s head on a pike like you have Barry & Doody?

  • Clay

    There is no pier on the outfall canal. There is a small floating dock on the Orleans Canal for the Crew team to use. Is that what you’re talking about?

    Tulane announced the engineering cuts in December 2005. Trust me. I remember it far better than you do.

    The SELFPA-E & -W boards weren’t set up until fall 2006.

    The engineering cuts preceded the set up of the selection committee.

  • Roy Arrigo

    Hi Clay,

    All members are appointed by the governor, not just a majority. Though Louis Wittie is the only remaining member who was originally appointed by Governor Blanco, even he was eventually (re)appointed by Governor Jindal.

    I do not know who will lead the board, and I do not agree with who you believe/assume it will be.

    Regardless of who leads the board, that it will be operated in a much more open, legal, accountable, and responsive manner. I could go on quite a bit on this point. There will be a world of difference.

    I doubt that they will buy out the landowners who abut the canals. I have never wanted or asked for them to buy out the property owners. That I wanted to be totally bought out is more of the false information that was spread by certain members of this board. All I have ever said was take whatever you need to make the city safe, and pay for what you take.

    Commissioner Dave Barnes voted to take the properties along the outfall canals without paying compensation. His decision to do so was based on false information that was presented to him that he believed was true. It was not based on lies, deception, mis-information and dishonesty on his part. For that reason, though I have never agreed with his decision, I have never called for Mr. Barnes to be removed from the board. He was a good honest well intentioned individual. I appreciate the honesty and integrity that he brought to this board and I pray for Mr. Barne’s health and well being.

    My call for anyone’s ‘head’ as you say was not based on any kind of buy out. It was based on a clear pattern of dishonesty by those whose heads I called for. I would call for the head of anyone who conducted themselves in that manner, buy out or not.


    Roy Arrigo

  • Clay

    I’m going to add some links here:



    Levees need maintenance. They also need unmolested soil stability extending away from the crest.

    Servitudes required are a function of hydrostatic loading & duration of loading. For river levees, the servitudes required can be 100’+ away from the crest of the levee. While the canal walls aren’t subject to hydrostatic loads for as long a duration as river levees (days instead of weeks), since the raising of the concrete walls on the outfall canals, a good amount of hydrostatic load can be put on those walls.

    One of my best friends grew up on Belle Aire near Harrison & I played often right next to that levee wall. Those houses, with 20/20 hindsight, are just too damn close. All those homeowners should be bought out, the houses levelled, and a linear park put in their place.

    Barnes’ suggestion was completely wrong on how to go about it (eminent domain pays market value), but his broader point about not having the houses so close to the levee is on the right track.

    As far as who the next head of SELFPA will be, it sure does look like Hassinger wants to take over:

  • Roy Arrigo

    Take whatever you need to make the city safe, and compensate for what you take.

    The flood protection system along the New Orleans side of the 17th Street canal consisted only of a floodwall. The levee on the New Orleans side of the 17th Street Canal was just an old dormant railroad foundation. It never served as part of the flood protection system. The levee was never constructed, operated, maintained, inspected, acquired, or included as a part of any governmental flood protection system. For that reason, the soil, maintenance requirements that you speak of do not apply. I would be happy to sit with you and show you all of the documentation that I have to support that. It is quite a bit. This video somewhat explains that:


    Regarding your comment about hindsight: Those houses were built long before the construction of that flood wall in 1993. If it was wrong to have floodwalls so close to houses, then building the floodwall there without buying out the houses was the wrong thing to do. Corps guidelines say otherwise. As far as being too close, in order to keep the city safe, Corps of Engineers guidelines call for a 15 foot clear zone along the floodwalls, not from the base of that privately owned remanant of a railroad foundation that is not and never was part of the system. That 15 foot barrier from the floodwall WAS being maintained before the 2005 floodwall failure. (please see the video) There would not have been a failure if the floodwalls had been built with adequate foundations.

    Finally, I see nothing in that news story video or text, that leads me to believe that Joe Hassinger will take over the board, or that he wants to do so.

    Take whatever you need to make the city safe, and compensate for what you take.

    Roy Arrigo

  • Roy Arrigo

    Regarding inspecting the levee toe for seepages:
    Certainly you know the story of my pre-katrina neighbor Beth LeBlanc who had the seepages in her lawn before the flood. If you go looking around on the internet, you will see that those seepages bubbled up i her FRONT yard, NOT IN THE BACK OF HER PROPERTY. Here is one story:


    Here is a direct quote from that story:
    “According to Beth LeBlanc, whose home in the city’s Lakeview District abutted the levee, water began pooling in her FRONT YARD last fall”.

    So the levee inspection zones on the REAR of our properties that the state stole in 2008 and that tim doody increased in 2011 to 15 foot would not have revealed those seepages. I can post photos later of those seepages still leaking long after katrina. Clearly none of the seepages are inside of any toe plus 6 feet or toe plus 15 foot zones.

    However, with that said, I still subscribe to the philosophy that the government:
    Take whatever it needs to make the city safe, and to compensate for whatever it takes.

  • Clay

    I watched the video. It states some true things, but misses some really big, basic points. Also citing a pre-Katrina engineering standard from a project that failed doesn’t help your case; the wall failed and the engineering design behind it was a failure.

    In any hydraulic structure, you have shear stress against the floodwall/levee/whatever… That shear stress must be able to absorbed by counteracting forces all the way down into the earth, or the levee flops over & fails. Period.

    The walls & the soil beneath them at all the outfall canals (save Orleans, but that’s a different issue) were an integral part of protecting New Orleans from hurricanes. The whole thing was slapdash & piecemeal and ASCE rightly called it “a system in name only”.


    The Corps designed & built the 17th Street Canal walls as a part of the Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana & Vicinity Project. That project was a royal cluster… Piss poor design, piss poor construction, … No other US levee project has killed more people than that one.

    Whether you call it a levee, a floodwall, or a pink elephant, both the element holding back the water and the soils beneath the element & the soils adjacent to those soils are needed to properly hold back the waters.

    As a quick and dirty engineering rule of thumb, go out to the floodwall… Go to the highest point on the floodwall… Draw a line perpendicular to the floodwall. Draw another 30 degrees below that one and extend it all the way to bedrock… That’s everything that’s required to hold back the hydrostatic load and maintain geotechnical stability.

    That’s a ballpark figure and may be overly conservative (or not). A full engineering analysis needs to be done for a proper calculation.

    My main point is there’s far more to a levee’s stability than a layman might presume.

  • Clay

    One final note: every within the engineering community geotechnical stability can be a very, very contentious issue, as exemplified by the SWL controversy over these very outfall canals:


  • Clay

    I’m now seeing the comments we wrote at the same time and I think we’re actually pretty close on this topic.

    The water bubbling up in the front yard is excellent evidence of how large a zone a levee can effect.

  • Clay

    I’m also well aware that the houses predate the wall, but the canal predates the houses. So long as there was no wall, the storm surge would just gently overtop into the houses and then receede. It was only with the addition of the walls that a truly catastrophic collapse could occur.

    To put it another way, the addition of a poorly engineered “safety” barrier killed people.

  • Clay

    Hassinger is now the Vice President of the Board

    Furthermore, the rumor is Hassinger is using his position on the board as a stepping stone for elected office. Maybe a run for Congress against Cedric Richmond.

  • Clay


    Lakeview levees still seeping & the Corps is trying to keep the repairs as quiet as they can.

    The post also notes the difficulty of doing extensive levee work inside a built up urban area.

  • Kelly M. Haggar


    The comments this afternoon (Sat June 28th) contain an exchange on point between Chris McLindon and Mark Schleifstein concerning the Penland et al studies (there are more than one and the late Penland was not always the lead author). This time, they were discussing http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2000/of00-417/ofr00-417.pdf; the whole thing is worth a read, no matter which side you support.