Thursday, May 22, 2008

NEW ORLEANS LEVEE LEAKING AGAIN

BOSTON GLOBE - Despite more than $22 million in repairs, a levee that broke with catastrophic effect during Hurricane Katrina is leaking again because of the mushy ground on which New Orleans was built, raising serious questions about the reliability of the city's flood defenses. more stories like this

Outside engineering specialists who have studied the project said the type of seepage spotted at the 17th Street Canal in the Lakeview neighborhood afflicts other New Orleans levees, too, and could cause some of them to collapse during a storm.

The Army Corps of Engineers has spent about $4 billion so far of the $14 billion Congress set aside to repair and upgrade the metropolitan area's hundreds of miles of levees by 2011. Some outside specialists said that the leak could mean that billions more will be needed and that some of the work already completed may need to be redone.

"It is all based on a 30-year-old defunct model of thinking, and it means that when they wake up to this one - really - our cost is going to increase significantly," said Bob Bea, a civil engineer at the University of California at Berkeley.

The Army Corps of Engineers disputed the dire assessment. The agency said it is taking the risk of seepage into account and rebuilding the levees with an adequate margin of safety.

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