In light of the recent hurricane that blasted through the Gulf Coast this past holiday weekend I would be remiss in doing my job if I did not comment on it as it specifically relates to the civil engineering industry. Three years ago Hurricane Katrina came through and absolutely devastated the Gulf Coast, New Orleans in particular. Not only was the government response (Federal, State & Local) a horrible failure, but it brought light upon the incomplete and failing levee system in that region. Earlier this year there was the tremendous flooding that took place in the Midwest, which really brought to the surface yet another instance of our failing infrastructure. Not only are our roads and bridges no longer meeting the needs of the population, but on top of that, and if it did not become evident following Katrina, it certainly became evident this spring, our levee system is is not capable of handling the potential devastating effects that mother nature can unleash. If you did not read our earlier newsletter or blog entry contributed by Adam Pitluk discussing this make sure you take a look, it is an interesting read.
This time around the City of New Orleans, the State of Louisianna, and FEMA seemed to have their act together as the coordination between the agencies and the level of preparedness was clearly the result of the Katrina debacle. After reading reports and watching the news coverage though there is still a long way to go in regards to the levee systems, at least down there in New Orleans, but progress is being made…slowly but surely. At the mouth of the Industrial Canal is where the biggest failure in the levee system exists and the Corps of Engineer hopes to have this $700 Million project completed by 2011. There was also another levee on the West Bank that is of major concern to the Corps of Engineers, as it is suspect at best, though it was able to withstand what Gustav had to offer…this time. Ownership of levees vary from Parrish to Parrish and the allocation of funds is a political process. I’m no politician, but this should be a pretty black and white issue. Protect your citizens and rebuild the city; this should be the top priority, and building and improving the current levee system needs to be the number one priority in this process. Gustav was no Katrina, and it certainly gave that Gulf Coast region a nice test, both on the levee system and the level of preparedness. The preparedness that we witnessed for Gustave should be commended and can be matched or exceeded with postive results when future hurricanes threaten, but will the current levee system in place be able to withstand another Katrina between now and 2011?