I just read this article & as much as I can understand and feel the frustration of the people directly effected, I am also feeling that no matter what the corps does – they are the enemy. You can only scold a child so much before it become ineffective, you have to praise them once in a while. Yesterday I saw a bunch of NOLA local workers sweating their butts off in the heat doing manual labor to try and help this great city. Just saying – sometimes people deserve a little praise for doing their job!

At my first stab at being armed with some knowledge of the storm and the Corps of Engineers, I will analyze the article-casual Greta blogger style:

WAPO: A $3 million experiment by the Army Corps of Engineers this week will simulate the conditions that caused some of the levee failures that led to Hurricane Katrina’s disastrous flooding.
GRETA: From what I know, the levees didn’t fail – they over-topped but remained intact. Some have even been improved and upgraded.
WAPO: “Some computations show the wall is going to fail at certain water levels; some show it won’t,” said Ray Martin, a geotechnical engineer consulting with the Corps on the project. “This experiment will let us know.”
GRETA: This is a good experiment. They are trying to raise the safe level of water they will allow to stay in the canal. This will the city pump more water into the canal during heavy rains = less street flooding.
WAPO: The fact that such an experiment is necessary reflects the uncertainty that continues to surround the question of exactly what caused the city’s flood defenses to fail.
GRETA: They do know and it was explained to me very clearly and diagrammed as well. No mystery for this one.
WAPO: Did a major man-made shipping channel known as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet allow the storm surge to slam the city?
GRETA: How about a major storm called Katrina. That wall has been improved and will be made even higher.
WAPO: Equally as important — and, perhaps more important to the thousands who are suing the Corps — is the question of whether government agencies and contractors who built the levees and flood walls are guilty of negligence or wrongdoing.
GRETA: My heart goes out to anyone who lost their house, life and/or belongings during the storm. There has got to be some assumed risk when you live where you do. Won’t touch this any further – plead ignorance.
WAPO: “The bottom line is that this city was destroyed, and the public doesn’t yet have an undisputed explanation,” said Sandy Rosenthal, director of Levees.org, a local advocacy group. “There are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered.”
GRETA: Ms. Rosenthal is not leading the Corps fan club. But hello – this was the most powerful recorded storm that EVER hit North America.
WAPO: Levees.org has been agitating for improved flood defenses and urging politicians to establish an “8/29 commission,” a congressional body modeled after the Sept. 11 commission.
GRETA: Oy vey – more wasted government spending.
WAPO: “There have been numerous studies about Katrina, without any clear direction of how to prevent a flood-control-system failure in the future,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who has embraced the proposal and sought to introduce it into legislation.
GRETA: From what I saw and heard on Friday – they are busting the Corps and their contractors are butts to make this city safer than ever. Now let’s clean up the criminals!
WAPO: In its most recent review of the Army Corps’ Katrina report, the NRC panel noted the existence of differing views of the “primary failure mechanism[s]” in the canal walls and warned that “the proposal of a single failure mechanism could lead future designers to focus on narrowly drawn conclusions, leading to neglect of other, equally plausible failure modes.”
GRETA: I didn’t hear anyone suggest a single failure mechanism.
WAPO: Robert G. Bea, one of the leaders of the Berkeley team of investigators has called for an 8/29 commission “to truly understand why these failures developed” because “the Corps is still not designing things safely enough.”
GRETA: Isn’t this the guy that tasted sewage water after the storm?
WAPO: The critical canal walls that are the subject of the upcoming test, and ones like it, are relatively simple structures: concrete walls supported by steel sheet pilings driven deep into the soil.
GRETA: Simple – I don’t think so. I certainly couldn’t build one!
WAPO: Last week in the Gentilly neighborhood, as residents still rebuilding their homes watched construction workers section off a portion of the canal for the test, many alternately wondered and worried over whether such certainty is achievable.
GRETA: Is anything certain? You could get hit by a bus tomorrow! But in my world – you live long and prosper. I am optimistic that way!
(c/p at NOLA.com)

8 Replies to “Sunday WaPo Corps article released on-line”

  1. Greta, that’s such good common sense! I think we’ve forgotten how to have common sense anymore. As a friend of mine says, ‘common sense is not common’.

    When New Orleans flooded I read some articles written by Europeans who were commenting on the fact that we are such a new nation that we have not experienced losing cities to mother nature’s wrath before. They were laughing at how we want to find someone to blame for everything that happens. Older civilizations have been around long enough to know that mother nature can bring down whatever we humans build.

    Very well said!!

  2. Wait, now I’m confused. I thought this was all Bush/Iraq’s fault!
    Was he moonlighting at the Corps of Engineers?

    Or is it both the Corps AND Bush (and of course, Iraq) who made the city flood? So confusing!


  3. As an ironic aside, I went to the levees.org website, and it crashed my browser! Specifically, it FLOODED my cpu! HA!

  4. I haven’t read the Time’s article yet. Your approach makes very good sense. The Yimes-Picayune had a very article almost a year ago that explained very well mis-steps taken over a 300 year period.

    I just curious if the Times article points out that the Hooey Basin drains into the 17th Street Canal. While water from Lake Ponchatrain was streaming from the canl’s north: storm water from the Hooey Basin was pouring in from the south.

    Time to go read the article.

  5. Just finished reading the Times article. They keep saying the proposed “leaky levee” system was dreamed up by the Corps of Engineers and neglects that it is Louisiana that is pushing for the idea. Same for the MR-GO. Congress mandated it at the behest of shpping companies.

  6. Two points you made that need to be reiterated!

    1. “this was the most powerful recorded storm that EVER hit North America.” STOP POINTING FINGERS! Fix the damn problem (or at least shut up and let the corps fix it for crying out loud) and move on!

    2. “There has got to be some assumed risk when you live where you do.” UH . . . YEAH? When you see a huge hill of grass directly behind your house, MOVE!

    I know I sound insensitive, but it is time to stop playing the blame game and realize that sometimes it is not going to be just one thing that made the city flood like it it did. It is a lot of things that went wrong and the problem goes back years and years. So why waste so much time and money on getting answers. No one, and I repeat, NO ONE knew Katrina would do what she did. No one, and I repeat, NO ONE was prepared for the aftermath. This includes the rescue of the people and how long it took was not one person’s fault. So stop that blame game too!

  7. Dear Friend,

    I read the article. There are several statements you make in your article that do not jibe with the facts.

    1. There was leaking UNDER the 17th St. Canal levee BEFORE Katrina.

    2. The Army Corp of Engineers lied. They said the Canal was built 18 ft. deep.
    Their own records show it was only built 10 ft. deep ON TOP OF CLAY!!

    3. The engineers at UNO and Loyola recommended 30 ft deep.

    4. The Army Corp has rebuilt the levees 10 ft deep AGAIN!! On clay AGAIN!!
    Does this make sense to you?

    5. The simulation of the worse case scenerio was accurate, the planned
    response was in place. It was not implemented!! The response to the flood
    in 1927 was more efficient. Then they had boats, tents and food to the
    rescue in two days, not two weeks later.

    6. Most of the Louisiana National Guard was in IRAQ. The local members were
    themselves flooded at the Jackson Barracks and were concentrating on saving
    their own lives.

    7. The best thing we can do right now is demand that the oil companies that
    dug all of those canals in the wetlands fill them in and plant salt
    resistant cypress trees with the millions they are declaring in profits.

    8. The corp rebuilt the Industrial canal levee that caused the tsunami in
    the lower 9th Ward two feet higher than the levee on the upper 9th Ward
    side. We didn’t have enough flooding last time, so next time they have
    guaranteed it will be worse.

    9. The biggest pumps available should be installed and, as scary as it sounds,
    tested, but we really need to have our levees 30ft deep, 30 ft high, 30 ft
    wide and built by the Dutch. After all, we helped them rebuild after WWII,
    now we need them to return the favor.

  8. I leave the reply to the experts – have forwarded it on. This is the first time I ever heard of these levee measurements…hmmmmm….

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