I read this article with interest, and want to comment on comments made by others responding to the article.
First and foremost, SLFPA-E has been successful in working to correct/change some of the Corp's plans and prior mistakes that affect flood protection for our citizens The most successful accomplishment of levee board consolidation and reform is the work done by this board since its inception.
Second, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans was formed in November 2005 when 120 of us came together with our single focus on levee board consolidation and reform for SE LA. We wanted a board of professionals with needed scientific expertise in flood protection, not political appointments, whose single focus would be on flood protection for our citizens. The nominating committee was created in this bill, with representatives from colleges and universities as well as a few civic groups (such as PAR) to nominate people with scientific expertise and the like to best select candidates. Citizen concerns about the board, pre-Katrina, were that their focus had been on marinas, casino, etc., and that their focus had not been on flood protection. We collected 53,000 signatures representing 1/3 of the Orleans population at the time.
Governor Blanco called the special session on flood protection, and through successes at the legislature, and a constitutional amendment that passed by 82% of the citizens of the state, a 92% vote of citizens in our city, the 2 boards SLFPA-E and SLFPA-W were created.
One comment stated that reports had not been furnished by the scientific experts on blame for the flooding, and that thus, the "reformers" were premature in working for change. As you can see from the accomplishments of the board created after Katrina , with highlights listed below, much has changed for the better in addressing advancements in flood protection.
Tim Doody and John Barry share with the rest of the board a number of important accomplishments. Right now, the board’s highest priority — and it has been for several years now — is getting the Corps to “armor” the system properly. Armoring makes sure the system will continue to function — and not collapse — even if a storm overtops the levees. The difference is that between water coming over the top of a bathtub and the whole side of the bathtub collapsing. The board has won several battles in what is turning into a long war with the Corps over this issue. This is a war the board has to win.
The board also has several important achievements. First, the Corps of Engineers was initially planning to repair only the breaches in the floodwalls along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the outfall canals along 17th Street, London Avenue, and Orleans Avenue. One Corps colonel even told the board that since these walls would now be shut off from the ocean by gates, they were not even part of the protection system the Corps was responsible for. But SLFPA-E pushed back hard, insisting that these canals remained a serious threat. SLFPA-E commissioned its own scientific study of the pressures on these walls. As a result, the Corps agreed to reinforce walls along most of the length of these canals.
The board also successfully pushed the Corps to reconsider its policy where the hurricane levee met the river levee. As built, this "tie-in" was in the board's view dangerous because of a significant discrepancy between the height of the hurricane levee and the river levee, which would have generated enormous turbulence when water came over the top. The Corps will fix this.
The board successfully pressured the Coast Guard into agreeing to empty the IHNC of vessels during hurricanes. In the past, no such rules were in place and vessels often broke free of moorings. A vessel crashing into floodwalls could have caused catastrophic flooding. Discussions continue with Coast Guard over the timing of issuing orders, but this threat has been enormously lessened.
The Corps refused to include the lakefront seawall as part of the hurricane protection project, even though it includes the protection the seawall provides to the levee in calculating how that levee is built, and even though in other parts of the system the Corps has added protection to accomplish what the seawall already does. Using 100% Orleans Parish money, the board has embarked on an $18 million project to repair and upgrade it.
The board has also recently conducted an analysis of the current system to determine if there are any parts that do not meet the 100 year standard, and which may need further work. The analysis has the added benefit of identifying weaknesses to focus on as the boardtries to upgrade protection to higher than the 100 year level.
They have conducted a study of the land bridge extending out from New Orleans East into Lake Pontchartrain, to identify what needs to be done to preserve it. If this land bridge erodes away, the ocean will pour into the lake and threaten people's lives and property who were never threatened before.
Those are all accomplishments of the entire board.
Ruthie Frierson, Founder
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
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