Report: $14 Billion New Orleans Flood System, Completed Less Than a Year Ago, Already Obsolete

The Army Corps of Engineers is already assessing the needs of repair work on a project it completed in May 2018 at the cost of $14 billion.

1 minute read

April 22, 2019, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Levee flooding New Orleans

CWO2 Kiel Skager, USA / The U.S. National Archives

Thomas Frank sums up a distressing state of affairs in Louisiana:

The $14 billion network of levees and floodwalls that was built to protect greater New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was a seemingly invincible bulwark against flooding.

But now, 11 months after the Army Corps of Engineers completed one of the largest public works projects in world history, the agency says the system will stop providing adequate protection in as little as four years because of rising sea levels and shrinking levees.

Frank also explains about why the new flood control system has so quickly become obsolete:

The agency’s projection that the system will “no longer provide [required] risk reduction as early as 2023” illustrates the rapidly changing conditions being experienced both globally as sea levels rise faster than expected and locally as erosion wipes out protective barrier islands and marshlands in southeastern Louisiana.

At particular risk are the "earthen levees that form the backbone of the 350-mile maze of protection that includes concrete floodwalls, pump stations and gated structures," according to Frank. The levees are settling as the sea level rises.

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