Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Researchers Say Levee Had Design Flaws

(AP) NEW ORLEANS The engineers who designed the floodwalls that collapsed during Hurricane Katrina did not fully consider the porousness of the Louisiana soil or make other calculations that would have pointed to the need for stronger levees with deeper pilings and wider bases, researchers say.

At least one key scenario was ignored in the design, say the researchers, who are scheduled to report their findings at a congressional hearing Wednesday: the possibility that canal water might seep into the dirt on the dry side of the levees, thereby weakening the embankment holding up the floodwalls.

"I'd call it a design omission," said Robert Bea, a University of California at Berkeley civil engineering professor who took part in the study for the National Science Foundation.

The research team found other problems in the city's flood-control system, including evidence of poor maintenance and confusion over jurisdiction.

Bea also questioned the margin for error engineers used in their designs, saying the standards — which call for structures to be 30 percent stronger than the force they are meant to stop — date to the first half of the 1900s, when most levees were built to protect farmland, not major cities.

"The center of New Orleans is certainly not protection of farmland, so the factor of safety was incredibly low," Bea said. "We're talking about thousands of families without homes and shutting down a commercial infrastructure that's pretty darn important to the United States."

Folks, we have to understand that the purpose of levees is to protect river navigation and industry. The system isn't (nor has it ever been) concerned with the protection of homes and citizens lives in times of flood. If those were protected, it was accidental instead of intentional.

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