Katrina, New Orleans
& Engineered Disasters
By Joe B
Metroblogging New Orleans
That'll be $300 billion dollars, please.
The time for excuses and foot dragging on the part of the federal government has passed. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the tremendous loss of property and displacement of the citizenry of New Orleans was not the result of a mere natural disaster.
Using data about the soil along the 17th Street Canal -- data obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, data that was used to design the levees along the 17th Street Canal -- and plugging that data into engineering equations used to determine whether a wall is strong enough to withstand the force of rising water, Team Louisiana found that sheet piling driven to the depths indicated on the Corps' plans for the levee would not resist 14 ft. of water, but would fail at 11 to 12 ft. of water. Further, they determined that the sheet piling was not driven to the design depth of 17.5 feet, but that it was driven to only 10 ft.
Investigators have been puzzled by the corps' design since it was made public in news reports. They said it was obvious the weak soils in the former swampland upon which the canal and levee were built clearly called for sheet piles driven much deeper than the canal bottom. It was not a challenging engineering problem, investigators said.
Prochaska said a rule of thumb is that the length of sheet piling below a canal bottom should be two to three times longer than the length extending above the canal bottom.
"That's if you have uniform soils, and we certainly don't have that in the New Orleans area," he said. "It kind of boggles the mind that they missed this, because it's so basic, and there were so many qualified engineers working on this."
First, they develop a design that is fundamentally and obviously flawed. Second, they fail to even implement the flawed design to spec. Third, the flaw is so obvious that at least two engineering firms and two divisions of the Corps of Engineers (a minimum of 4 points of review) missed it.
Call me a radical, I suppose, but I think someone has a lot of 'splaining to do. And I think that the federal government has a lot of money to shell out: to homeowners, business owners, residents, and yes, even to insurance companies. Because this disaster was incredibly unnatural and very preventable. It shouldn't matter whether anyone in the area affected by the 17th Street Canal levee had flood insurance or not, because their damages were the result of negligence by multiple government agencies and multiple independent engineering firms.
Congress needs to get off their bribe-fattened asses and pony up the cash, pronto.



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