Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wired: Before the Levees Break: A Plan to Save the Netherlands

Incredible article about flood protection in the Netherlands. Puts our puny system to shame.

It's embarrassing to see how far we've fallen. Given how pathetic are system is, it's hard to comprehend that it was the Dutch who came here for help from a Tulane engineer who was born and raised in New Orleans.

My favorite parts are towards the end:

Applying the Dutch model of risk-based design [to New Orleans' levees] would be a political nonstarter, if not unconstitutional, and the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers would in no time be halted by an army of lawyers.

Meanwhile, the water keeps coming.

The article is really a must-read, especially the end.

UPDATE- Meanwhile, our 100-year storm protection grinds to a halt because of lawyers.

UPDATE 2- New model that takes dynamic effects of waves into account directly contradicts Corps' computer model. MUCH higher storm surge predicted than the Corps' computer model.


Tim said...

Applying a "Dutch model of risk-based design" would not be unconstitutional, just simply illegal because it would exceed the authority given to the Corps by Congress. At the end of the day the Corps is like any other government agency and can only do what it is allowed to do by Congress and the President.

Some good news, however, is that the Corps is pushing the envelope as much as possible. For instance, Congress only authorized protection from the 1% storm surge (100-year event), but for resiliency the Corps added a check against the 0.2% storm surge (500-year event). Waves from that larger event will wash over but walls and levees are being designed high enough to halt that larger storm surge. This is justified and legal using the argument that more than one hurricane can occur in a single season and catastrophic failure of the system due to larger than primary design events is not an option.



Clay said...

Well, I could bring up the whole "100-year storm" thing is a bullshit, but that's an entirely separate issue.

I will say that within the past 3-6 months or so, it's felt like the Corps is actually getting serious and down to business. It's 3 years late, though. No chance in hell of finishing by 2011 (and doing the job right), IMHO.

And then we get to the whole Cat-5 Levees thing... The one project I'd like to see the Corps planning on is gating the mouth of Lake Pontchartrain. I think it's one of the most important projects for the future of the city (that and diverting the Mississippi are #1 above all else).