Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Levees may fail in another storm...

(Photo: Joby Warrick / The Washington Post)
The Army Corps of Engineers are working around the clock to repair the damage to the levees as a result of Hurricane Katrina. However, there is growing concern that the repairs may not be able to withstand another Category 3 hurricane.
The Corps seems likely to fulfill a promise by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans's toppled flood walls to their original, pre-Katrina height by June 1, but two teams of independent experts monitoring the $1.6 billion reconstruction project say large sections of the rebuilt levee system will be substantially weaker than before the hurricane hit.

These experts say the Corps, racing to rebuild 169 miles of levees destroyed or damaged by Katrina, is taking shortcuts to compress what is usually a years-long construction process into a few weeks. They say that weak, substandard materials are being used in some levee walls, citing lab tests as evidence. And they say the Corps is deferring repairs to flood walls that survived Katrina but suffered structural damage that could cause them to topple in a future storm.

The Corps strongly disputes the assertion - by engineers from a National Science Foundation-funded panel and a Louisiana team appointed to monitor the rebuilding - that substandard materials are being used in construction. Agency officials maintain that the new levees are rigorously inspected at each step. But they acknowledge that much more work will be needed after June 1, the beginning of hurricane season, and that the finished system still will not be strong enough to withstand a storm the magnitude of Katrina.