Sunday, December 31, 2006

Behind Schedule

Who, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? No way!

The Corps is about six months behind schedule in issuing an all-important "risk analysis," a massive body of work that is intended to tell the public how likely New Orleans is to flood again from a big hurricane.

The analysis is supposed to explain in precise detail how well specific sections of the city are protected against hurricanes, using evidence that hurricanes have intensified in recent years. The analysis would produce detailed maps.
I am sure no one’s waiting for that:
The Corps' analysis will play a major role in determining the city's future — including whether more than 200,000 former residents could rebuild abandoned neighborhoods and whether insurers can provide coverage at an affordable rate.
That’s okay. It just affects us little old New Orleanians:
The stakes are high, not only for the integrity of the levees around New Orleans but for similar levees that protect millions of Americans who live along vulnerable coastlines and rivers across the nation. Many were built on the same mucky foundations and with the same flawed engineering assumptions as the notorious failed 17th Street levee in New Orleans.

The suspect levees stretch from Florida's Lake Okeechobee to the rivers of California's Central Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which has 2,300 miles of levees that protect cities and farmland.

The Corps' investigation is essential to understanding California's situation, said Les Harter, the levee chief at the California Department of Water Resources.

"The floodwalls in New Orleans were 15 years old, and they failed," Harter said. "Our levees are 100 years old. We estimate we have one-half the level of protection that New Orleans had."
Well, at least something has happened in those six months:
Three top-ranking Army Corps of Engineers officials who led the agency's reconstruction work after Hurricane Katrina are stepping down, prompting critics to again question whether the Corps is able to protect the city from future disasters.

The latest retirements include two top civilians and the New Orleans district engineer. They come on the heels of the retirement of the agency's chief, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, who said in August he was leaving his post for "family and personal reasons."


Last month, Col. Richard Wagenaar, the New Orleans district's engineer chief who was assigned his post one month before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, asked the Army to let him retire next summer.

He cited the "mental challenges and physical challenges" of handling the district since Katrina.


Dan Hitchings, a 55-year-old civilian who oversaw the agency's reconstruction mission after Katrina, Task Force Hope, said he is retiring at the end of January.

Hitchings said the change in leadership will not diminish the agency's ability to get the job done.


The third top engineer to retire is Greg Breerwood, the New Orleans district's 59-year-old deputy district engineer for project management. With 37 years of experience, he is the senior civilian in the district.

Breerwood said the Corps is about to start the next phase of long-term flood and hurricane protection for Louisiana. His last day on the job is Jan. 3.
Hey, where is everybody going?

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