For those readers who still don't grasp the scale of the failure of the Army Corps of Engineers in constructing the defenses Congress mandated them to build to protect New Orleans, Sunday"s Times-Picayune offers the Corps' own study of the crucial, and crucially compromised, 17th Street Canal. The good news, according to the Corps: with the building of the floodgates at the mouth of the canals, the canal's fearfully mis-constructed walls are no longer the front line of defense against flood surge. The bad news: the floodwall, rated to protect against a 13-foot surge, actually couldn't withstand a seven-footer:
Corps officials had hoped to be able to raise the (safe) level another foot or so, but they backed off after finding too many weak links.
The most troubling area is on the New Orleans side of the canal near the Veterans Memorial Boulevard bridge, which the analysis indicated couldn't safely tolerate more than 6.3 feet of surge.
Katrina's surge at this spot was no more than ten feet. The American people paid the Corps to be almost four feet short of protecting the city. Too many weak links indeed.