Levees.org releases new info on what may have led floodwalls to collapse

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 22 at 6:43 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- When it came time to rebuild his home near the London Avenue Canal, K.C. King decided to make sure he never flooded again.

"You see up there, the Katrina depth?" King said, as he pointed at a depth gauge several feet over his head. "That's the depth we were underwater."

Twenty years prior to the failure of the floodwalls along several of the city's outfall canals, a crucial test by the Army Corps of Engineers played a role in what may have ultimately led to the floodwalls' collapse, according to the advocacy group "Levees.org."

"They didn't see that the test actually failed because it failed underneath the water," said Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal.

The misinterpretation, Rosenthal said, led the corps to drive sheet pilings 17 feet down, instead of 45 feet down when the floodwalls were built. It was a move that at the time saved about $100 million.

"Directly because the sheet pilings were driven down too short, too shallow, that's why they fell over," Rosenthal said, pointing to research done by civil engineers.

Levees.org released the findings ahead of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The group also said the corps, in the past, mistakenly placed some of the blame for the flood protection failures on local levee agencies.

In a letter to Levees.org, Ken Holder, the corps' chief of public affairs said, "it is not possible to determine exactly which documents... were relied upon... by two former corps military leaders in statements attributed to them."

Holder clarified that position in a statement to Eyewitness News late Wednesday afternoon.

"I don't think there is one document, I think it was a number of documents," Holder said.

Back at the London Avenue Canal, K.C. King said he has no regrets rebuilding 11 feet off the ground.

"I had to do my best guess and my best guess was -- it happened before, it can happen again," King said.

Levees.org said another reason they released the findings is because there are 50 other sites across the country, where similar floodwalls were built.

 

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