The Levees at New Orleans

On the official start of Hurricane Season on June 1st. I accompanied some other journalist on a tour conducted by the Corps of Engineers of the some of the levees protecting Orleans and Jefferson Parish here in New Orleans. The object was to show the work that had been carried out since Hurricane Katrina towards a 100 year level of protection by 2011.

We saw elevated safe houses for pump operators to hunker down in during a storm at pumping station, fleets of trucks and bull dozers dumping and forming 20-foot plus high levees along the Mississippi River, surge protection plans where the Mississippi Gulf Outlet (MRGO or Mister Go) meets the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and in St. Bernard Parish and mammoth temporary pumping facilities at the now infamous entrance to the 17th St. Canal.

It was an impressive array of engineering and plodding perseverance presented with lively rhetoric. However, If it were depicted as an arm wrestle between the Corps and nature, I guess I’d still have to bet on nature. The Corps is doing what it can with what it has in a predictable and bureaucratic manor. Nature will do what it will with speed and without accurate prediction.

So why live here. It’s just such a great and unique place, even more dysfunctional than the biggest bureaucracies.
The Whitney Barataria Pumping Station safe house. Pump operators left the stations under orders from Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, before Katrina. Broussard was fearful for the operators lives, but ran into a storm of criticism following the flooding that occurred, The safe houses are designed to provide protection to pump operators hunkered down in them during future storms.
The pumps seen here are a temporary quick fix at the entrance to the 17th St. Canal, one of three major canal breaches allowing water to flood into Orleans Parish (to the right of the canal). Under Task Force Hope the Corps hopes to have a permanent pumping station in place by 2011, the target year for achieving 100 year protection for the city. However, there is still controversy regarding where the permanent pumping station should be located: at the entrance to the canal on Lake Ponchartrain, or some distance inland. The flood gate on which this photo was taken from is permanent and designed to prevent water from the lake from entering the canal, as it did after the storm, filling the city to lake level.
The flood gate and outflow pipes on the Lake Ponchartrain side of the 17th St. Canal.
I took this photo as a joke picture, but should we laugh.
The condos behind the pumps and pipes at the 17th St. canal have been displaced by the Corps project. Ironically, not too many years ago, the Bucktown fishermen, mainly Lake Ponchartrain shrimpers, wee displaced from their moorage site by the condo developers.


By Professional Mariner Staff