Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Big Fix

CNN is reporting that President Bush has announced a plan to spend $3.1 billion on repairs and strengthening of New Orleans levee system.

Okay. The devil is in the details as any of my faithful readers know. How and why some of the levees failed is still under investigation. Sonar readings that indicated that some piles weren't driven to the proper depth were contradicted by the Corps pulling some of the piles and found that they were, in fact, driven to the proper depth. It calls into question whether the levees were not designed to withstand the forces that were intended by the designers. There's still the possibility that substandard materials and failures of oversight that contributed to the failures.

All this has an impact on repairing and strengthening the levees. What sorts of assumptions have to be made, including potential storm surges, hydrology changes to the wetlands, MRGO, and the bureaucratic dynamics both in Washington and Louisiana.

Expect grousing from the Louisiana delegation that this isn't a sufficient amount to fix and strengthen the levees. It probably isn't - if the Big Dig is any guide ($3 billion initial price tag, $14.6 billion as built). However, the early indication is that at least Whiplash Nagin is saying the right things:
Nagin thanked Americans for the money to rebuild New Orleans and told former residents of the city to come home.

"It's time for you to come back to the Big Easy," he said. "This action today says come home to New Orleans."

Nagin said the levee system will be stronger than ever.

"These levees will be as high as 17 feet in some areas. We've never had that," he said. "We will have the holy trinity of recovery -- levees, housing and incentives."

Officials said the levee system would be rebuilt to its previous level of protection before the hurricane season next year, and that the process of strengthening them further would take two years.
They better get cracking as the hurricane season is only a few months away.

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