Each month Richard Campanella explores an aspect of New Orleans’ geography. His Cityscapes column for Nola.com and The Times-Picayune shines a light on structural, often-overlooked or invisible aspects of the city. This month: a flood in 1849. Up until Katrina it was the largest deluge in the city’s history.
Campanella says that disaster 165 years ago had something in common with Katrina.
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."
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.