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May 07, 2007

Engineering expert: NOLA levee repairs flawed

On a recent fact-finding tour, civil engineering expert Bob Bea observed serious flaws in the repairs on New Orleans' levees:

The most troubling, Dr. Bea said, was erosion on a levee by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a navigation canal that helped channel water into New Orleans during the storm.

Breaches in that 13-mile levee devastated communities in St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, and the rapid reconstruction of the barrier was hailed as one of the corps’ most significant rebuilding achievements in the months after the storm.

But Dr. Bea, an author of a blistering 2006 report on the levee failures paid for by the National Science Foundation, said erosion furrows, or rills, suggest that “the risks are still high.” Heavy storms, he said, may cause “tear-on-the-dotted-line levees.” [NYT]

After being informed of the safety concerns raised by Bea and other independent experts, Sen. Mary Landrieu sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking whether the repairs were sufficient to protect the levee system.

The Corps stands by its work.

National Geographic sponsored Bea's tour as part of its ongoing coverage of levee-related issues.


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Harry Shearer did an extensive interview with Bea last month on Le Show (April 22).

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