The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is FINALLY starting -starting- to admit they flooded New Orleans. Of course you long time Wizbang readers have known this for almost 6 months. The last gasp of the Corps was expired by their own engineering manual.
Overtopping claim won’t hold water, experts say
Floodwall standards set in corps manual
Engineer Manual No. 1110-2-2502 is not a publication that would normally excite interest from the general population. But in the weeks and months ahead, as New Orleans struggles to rebuild from the floods of Hurricane Katrina, Section 4 of that Army Corps of Engineers book could be scrutinized intensely by city and state officials.
The manual sets the performance standards for, among other things, inland floodwalls: the kind the corps built along the city’s drainage canals and that failed spectacularly during Katrina, flooding much of the city and leading to many of the 1,100 deaths thus far confirmed from the storm.
Section 4b of the manual reads: “Case I2, Water to the Top of the Wall. This is the same as Case I1 (design flood loading) except the water level is at the top of the unprotected side of the wall.”
Forensic engineers investigating the levee failures say the layman’s translation of that section amounts to a “gotcha” clause for those who believe the walls failed through faulty design and not because they were overwhelmed by a storm that exceeded design limits.
“It says what every engineer knows: If you build walls to 14 feet, regardless of the design specifications for the expected storm — 12 feet or 10 feet or 13 feet — those walls must hold water to their tops,” said J. David Rogers, a forensic engineer on the National Science Foundation team investigating the failures.
“That’s a basic rule in engineering, whether you’re building dams or floodwalls. And those floodwalls were 14 feet in New Orleans, and all the evidence says they weren’t overtopped.
“So, yeah, this was a human failure, not a natural disaster.”
The Corps has tried lately to wiggle out of taking responsibility by claiming the walls were only designed to hold 12.5 feet of water. Every indication we have is that the walls failed before that level anyway but at least when the lawsuit gets argued they would have something that stand on. Their own manual takes that defense away.
Since overtopping has been ruled out as the cause of failure along some canal walls, experts in and out of the corps have debated whether the water inside the failed floodwalls was higher than the 12.5 feet maximum listed as the design capacity. But Rogers and other engineers said Section 4b makes that discussion moot. Because the walls were built to 14 feet, to account for wave splash, any collapse below that level means the design failed.
“Their own manual makes it pretty clear this was a failure, ” Rogers said, “although they might try to argue it was something else.”
Walter Baumy, chief of the engineering division at the corps’ New Orleans District, agreed with the interpretation. ” ‘Water to the top of the wall’ means it has to hold if the water gets that high,” he said.
At least someone at the Corps is awake. But what does this mean to you dear taxpayer?
But the debate continues, because the stakes are high. If the walls yielded to forces lower than their design specifications, the city will be on firmer moral and legal footing in asking Congress to pay for the all the property damaged and destroyed when the waters of Lake Pontchartrain poured into the city. If not, the government can say the cost should be borne by flood insurance and homeowners.
We are talking hundreds of billions of dollars. Although some in the Corps are still living in fantasy land…
… And the corps commander, Brig. Gen. Carl Strock, said his agency believes Katrina was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall at Buras, and was a Category 5 when it was building storm surge in the Gulf that later fell on Louisiana. Corps officials say that the floodwalls and hurricane levees were designed to withstand the equivalent of “a fast-moving Category 3 storm.”
Gen. Strock has been smoking hemp. Katrina was a Cat 3 when she hit land and a Cat 1 in New Orleans. But even if he were correct, it is irrelevant. If you build floodwalls 14 feet high they must hold 14 feet of water.
The Corps was actively trying to spin the levee breaks during the storm and still haven’t given up completely. I called them on their name games 5 months ago. (despite the idiot commenters)
The end game is drawing near. For all the Feds claims of sending Billions to New Orleans, they have sent 5 times as much money to Mississippi as New Orleans (per capita) even thought he need in New Orleans is exponentially higher and the Feds didn’t flood Mississippi. They barely approved getting REAL Cat 3 levees (which we thought we had) and still have not approved Cat 5.
Further, the money they have spent, they (the Feds not LA ) have managed so poorly, there are likely to be criminal investigations. (more on this soon)
Patience is wearing thin in New Orleans and I personally can’t see the class action lawsuit holding off much longer. The Feds have spent over 20 billion dollars and there is still garbage on every street. Certainly for 20 BILLION they could get the debris picked up.
The Feds are dropping the ball big time. If they argree to things like the Baker Plan they can avoid the pain and suffering damamges that will be added to a lawsuit. But so far they look determined to do this the hard way.
If I were a taxpayer in another state, I’d be concerned, very concerned.