Levees ailing before Katrina hit, report finds
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — New Orleans’ levee system was routinely underfunded and therefore inadequate to protect against hurricanes, according to an independent report released Monday.
The report also called for an overhaul of the agencies that oversee flood protection. It took aim at Congress for its piecemeal funding during the past 50 years, and at state and local levee authorities for failing to properly oversee maintenance of the levees.
“You tend to get what you pay for,” Dave Rogers, a member of the team of academics who extensively studied the system, said during a Monday news conference.
The study was performed by the Independent Levee Investigation Team, led by the University of California, Berkeley. The group has been highly critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was in charge of designing and building the complicated system.
The study released Monday said floods overwhelmed levees and flood walls, both on the fringes and inside the city. Breaches were caused by weak soil in the levees, poor engineering and breakdowns in sections where different types of flood protection meet.
The Corps of Engineers has been working to repair and upgrade the levee system before the June 1 start of the hurricane season. However, officials said part of the work will not be finished by then.
Raymond Seed, a member of the study team, said Monday that engineers must pay attention to other spots in the system that may fail if another hurricane hits New Orleans.
“The next weakest link is the one you have to be worried about,” Seed said.
While the corps is trying to upgrade the levee system, it is installing huge flood gates at key points to prevent the type of Katrina-like storm surge that entered canals and overtopped and breached levees, leading to the flooding of 80 percent of New Orleans and surrounding areas.