Monday, October 10, 2005

When the levee breaks...

The levees on the canals in the western part of New Orleans apparently broke because they were built on top of mud (doh!) and the mud washed out from under them, allowing the whole levee to be pushed inwards until the walls on top broke loose from each other.

The levees on Lake Ponchartrain were the same height, but were much broader at the base (and much heavier) due to the fact that they are 100% earthen, thus the mud didn't wash out from under them. Indeed, the mud under them has been so compacted by the thousands of tons of soil levee on top that it likely has the consistency of concrete.

What this implies is simply repairing the existing canal wall system will not be enough. Either the canals need to be disconnected from Lake Ponchartrain (perhaps by putting enormous pumping stations at their heads to pump out their waters into the lake) or large swaths of land on their sides will need to be condemned in order to make room for broader-based levees so that the mud under the levees won't wash out.

After Bechtel gets the contract, expect to see $35 billion spent on profit, and $5 billion actually spent building the levees -- in a way that they are guaranteed to fail at the next big hurricane (gotta guarantee Bechtel another round of profits, after all!).

- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

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