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Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- Less is more. That is what researchers at the University of Notre Dame say they have found in a new study about Louisiana levee systems.

Researchers say lowering levees along parts of the Mississippi River would reduce a storm surge before it reaches New Orleans.

However, local parish officials say this study was nothing but a waste of time and money.

A new study released by researchers at the University of Notre Dame say there is a better way to protect New Orleans in a hurricane.

Notre Dame professor Joannes Westerink led the study and says working with nature would save the city billions of dollars in levee construction.

'What we found is that the southern portion of the river captures storm surges very, very efficiently,' said Notre Dame professor Joannes Westerink.

The study found that lowering the levees here along the West bank of the Mississippi River would reduce the storm surge in New Orleans by two meters, or roughly six feet.

Yet Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser says there is one problem with that: 'We don't sacrifice one community for another here in Louisiana.'

Nungesser says allowing the parts of Plaqumines Parish to flood so New Orleans will not flood is not a solution.

'I am disappointed that we yet again have to look at another study and find ways to spend money foolishly,' said Nungesser.

But Westerink says the study does offer a way to protect communities from the flooding.

'What you would then do is and put ring levees around communities like Venice and other communities that line the river,' said Westerink.

Parish officials say a ring levee system is too costly and that lowering the levees would cause flood insurance rates to go up for residents.

Already the parish has 2 billion dollars worth of levee improvements in the works. Nungesser says these projects are more beneficial for the entire area because they are making levees the last line of defense rather than the first.

'We are finally building coast restoration smarter, bigger, higher that lower storm surges to our levee systems,' said Nungesser.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played a role in the research. They say the technology used in the study is vital to their work because it illustrates how changing one part of the system impacts other areas.

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