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Thursday, December 01, 2005
Why The Levees Broke

Wizbang points us to this article on a story I've been covering for awhile.

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state's forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they "could not fathom" how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history.

The failure of the wall and other breaches in the city's levee system flooded much of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore Aug. 29, prompting investigations that have raised questions about the basic design and construction of the floodwalls.

"It's simply beyond me," said Billy Prochaska, a consulting engineer in the forensic group known as Team Louisiana. "This wasn't a complicated problem. This is something the corps, Eustis, and Modjeski and Masters do all the time. Yet everyone missed it -- everyone from the local offices all the way up to Washington."

As Wizbang notes, the national media seem uninterested in this part of the story, despite the clear blame that accrues apparently to the federal government. The problem, from the media's standpoint, is probably that there's no good "blame it on Bush" hook. The article does not make it clear when the mistakes were made, but I'd suspect it was a long time before President Bush took office.
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