NEW ORLEANS – The Army Corps of Engineers are set to study the $14.5 billion federal flood protection system that guards New Orleans and whether it had any effect on Hurricane Isaac surge entering LaPlace and other areas outside of the network.
Col. Edward Fleming said during a Friday news conference that local, state and federal officials have all requested the Corps study models predicting where surge water would push in the event of a storm from when the system was designed.
Isaac’s painstakingly slow crawl across southeast Louisiana pushed water deep into areas of St. John the Baptist Parish which normally don’t flood. In the days since Isaac’s landfall, there has been speculation that the hurricane system deflected water around New Orleans and into the distant suburb 30 miles from New Orleans.
“I’ve directed my team to go back and review the modeling that we did prior to the construction – the modeling that underpins the design and construction of the hurricane system – to make sure that the modeling we did is, in fact, correct,” Fleming said.
Following the news conference, Fleming told WWLTV the Corps ran numerous models of the levee system prior to the improvements. They’re going to re-run many of the models, examining all different aspects of surge flow.
He anticipates it’ll be weeks before the models are finished and the results are clear.
“The good news from Hurricane Isaac is that the Corps’ post-Katrina hurricane protection system in metropolitan New Orleans performed well,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). “The bad news is that there was significant flooding in several areas outside the system, in many cases at unprecedented levels. The people in those areas deserve a careful, scientific and expedited review of this issue by outside, independent experts.”
Said Fleming, “I’ve talked with both senators and we are on track to review that model and make sure we’ve got that right and we’re committed to making sure that we did, in fact, have that modeling done correctly.”
LaPlace wasn’t the only area long the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain to see destructive flooding.
Areas in the eastern portion of Orleans Parish, including Venetian Isles, Lake Catherine, Irish Bayou and Fort Pike took on several feet of water.
As Fleming finished speaking during the news conference, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu approached the microphone and reminded Fleming that those areas should be included in the after-action analysis.
Fleming simply responded, “Yes, Mr. Mayor.”
Meanwhile, New Orleans stayed dry seven years after levees and pumps protecting it failed, allowing surge pushed by Katrina into Lake Pontchartrain into the city via breaks in the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals.
Flood gates at each canal held during Isaac, as did flood gates at Seabrook and the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal Lake Borgne surge barrier.
But the effort wasn’t flawless.
An automatic control panel failed to initiate pumping at the 17th Street Canal, forcing the pumps to be started manually after water levels reached the maximum 6½-foot operating level Tuesday night.
Once turned on, the pumps did their job, a Corps spokesman said.
--WWLTV reporter Brendan McCarthy helped with this report.