The idea that grass can armor anything is hard to believe.
But on a recent visit to the Lake Pontchartrain levee, LSU agronomist Jeff Beasley explained how plain old, garden variety grass has earned a reputation with the US Army Corps of Engineers as one of the best armoring materials to keep the huge mud walls of a levee from collapsing during a storm.
"You know how we reinforce concrete with rebar?" says Beasley. "We can do the same with these levees."
New Orleans' levee board is suing energy companies for damaging the Mississippi River delta by cutting canals through the marshland. The canals let in sea water, which kills marshes, eroding the city's protective buffer against storms. A map of the delta.
Credit Frank Relle
Oil companies dug canals to transport equipment and crews and for drilling. Salt water intrusion has doubled the width of many canals. A canal near the Mississippi River Bohemia Spillway.
Credit Frank Relle
The canals have become tools for the local seafood and charter-fishing business, too. Dr. John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation holds a crab trap pulled from a canal. A dormant natural-gas well is in the background.
Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has a new flood protection system — $14 billion of levees, pumps and flood gates built by the Army Corps of Engineers. Residents, though, don't think that will be enough. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East, the local levee board, basically, says that as sea levels rise and wetlands down river get washed away, New Orleans will need more help.
The Army Corps of Engineers has approved the third and final phase of the St. Charles west bank hurricane levee, which means all three phases of the levee project have corps approval to move toward construction.
At the St. Charles Parish Council meeting on Monday night, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said the Corps of Engineers approved a permit green-lighting the design and construction of Phase III Ellington, the last permit necessary to authorize the project. The other two phases had already been approved.
Metro area residents probably know stories about consumers with big eyes and small wallets who become “house poor.” But in the years ahead they may become familiar with a new, more frightening term: “levee poor.”
The Army Corps of Engineers says a federal levee designed to protect Terrebonne Parish and parts of Lafourche Parish from storm flooding will cost $12.9 billion. State and local officials would have to come up with 35 percent, or up to $4.5 billion.
The plan released Friday includes 36 additional miles of levee, extending the Morganza project from U.S. 90 in Gibson to Louisiana Highway 1 in Lockport.
The corps plans a meeting about it Jan. 31 at the Houma Municipal Auditorium.
Existing levees will be raised in two northeast Louisiana parishes starting in the next few weeks.
The levees held during the Mississippi River flood of 2011, but have settled gradually since being built in 1973.
Reynold Minsky is president of the 5th Louisiana Levee District board. He tells The News-Star of Monroe the changes will bring all of East Carroll Parish and most of Concordia Parish to 500-year flood protection levels.
An Army Corps of Engineers report has found debris buried in a levee built after Hurricane Katrina.
The levee protects the densely populated suburban West Bank neighborhoods across the Mississippi River from the main portion of the city.
The report says the levee meets the corps' design specifications and is not in danger of failure because of any unsuitable debris. But the report advises the corps to consider shoring up one portion of the levee built atop a "buried debris field."