New Orleans Wall Rebuilding on Track, Engineers' General Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2006 Restoration of the flood protection system in New Orleans is on track and by June 1 will be equal to or better than it was before Hurricane Katrina, the Army general in charge of the program said here yesterday.
To date, 100 of the 169 damaged miles of levee have been repaired, and 85 percent of pumping capacity is restored, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander and chief of engineers, Army Corps of Engineers, said at a White House news conference.
In meeting President Bush's June 1 commitment, the Corps of Engineers will restore all damaged levees and floodwalls and will put three temporary closures on canals that presented problems during Katrina, Strock said. Also, the Canal at 17th Street, the Canal at Orleans and the London Avenue Canal will all have closures to prevent the storm surge of a future weather event from getting into vulnerable areas, he said.
By September 2007, the entire flood protection system around the New Orleans area will be up to its full and authorized design levels, Strock said. "I say that and make that distinction because pre-Katrina, some of the system was not at its full authorized design, so we'll complete the construction of that," he added.
During the rebuilding process, 91 percent of contracts have gone to local firms, providing about $770 million of work, Strock said. "We see this not only as a way to help set the conditions for the physical recovery of New Orleans, but also to help create some economic opportunities for local businesses," he said.
By December 2007, the Corps of Engineers will have completed its study of what is required to give the ultimate protection level to New Orleans, Strock said. This study will give officials a good idea of what needs to be done in the future to protect the city, he said.
Strock challenged media reports about poor construction standards and materials, and said that the Corps of Engineers is doing the right thing in New Orleans. "We are using the right material, and we're putting it down in the right way," he said. "We're giving tremendous scrutiny into not only how we do this, but also into the results after the fact. So we're doing extensive testing of the in-place structures to ensure that they are up to standard."
The Corps of Engineers is now determining whether to replace many of the city's undamaged floodwalls with more structurally stable walls and is considering using a navigable flood-control structure to isolate the Inner Harbor, Strock said.
As the June 1 start of the next hurricane season approaches, military and government officials are committed to the safety of the people of New Orleans, Strock said. "The people of the Corps of Engineers and our partners down there in the area are working very hard to ensure that we reduce the vulnerabilities to the people to the very highest degree we can, and that any remaining vulnerabilities are clearly understood by the people as they make decisions on when and how to reoccupy the city," he said.