Cost cuts risk weakening Louisiana levees

Oct. 18, 2010 at 1:18 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- An Army Corps of Engineers study of levees around New Orleans could weaken standards meant to prevent another Katrina-like disaster, an analysis shows.

In the city, the new corps standards mandate that levees be rebuilt with expensive compaction techniques. But outlying communities may be allowed to use cheaper materials -- and get less protection -- The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

Pushing for the relaxed rules are spending-conscious local governments in south Louisiana. Much of the increased burden would fall on them.

Levee standards will not be relaxed in the 350-mile levee system in the New Orleans metro area. But nearby levees, including ones that protect the city's flank, could be affected.

At the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system around Houma, for example, the stricter standards would multiply its costs from a pre-Katrina estimate of $882 million to $3 billion to $11 billion. State and local governments are required to pay 35 percent of the cost.

The increased expense is largely the result of new rules the corps developed after studying the failure of earthen levees and floodwalls during Katrina. It blamed a failure to understand the quality of the soil underneath.

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