14 March 2006

1986 Levee Wall Test Exposes Failures: NOTHING Done About It

According to the National Science Foundation, in 1986 the Army Corps of Engineers tested levee walls in the Atchafalaya Basin to see if the walls would hold the water that they were designed for. The test specifically mimicked the soils and conditions in New Orleans.

From the Times Picayune this morning:
The 1986 corps test, done in the Atchafalaya Basin on soils purposely meant to simulate those in the New Orleans area, resulted in a series of events that closely mirrors those that occurred on the 17th Street Canal during Katrina, the science foundation statement said. As water levels rose against floodwalls built for the test, a "dramatic increase" in deflections of the sheet piles occurred, followed by a "gap developing between the sheet piles and the soils, allowing water to flow between the sheet piles and the soils, exerting additional hydrostatic pressures on the piles," the foundation engineers said.
Wow, that sounds a lot like the findings of the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, the Corps sponsored panel investigating the floodwall failures during Katrina:
The Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, working for the corps to investigate the levee breaches, said in its second interim report Friday that the 17th Street failure was caused by rising water in the canal that forced the floodwall to flex away from the canal, causing a separation between the wall and the levee inside the canal. Water pressure building inside the opening then exerted force on a weak layer of soil under the wall and the land-side toe of the levee, causing the layer to slip and bringing the levee down and the wall with it.

The results of the tests were "widely circulated among Corps officials" and the New Orleans Levee District was alerted of the test also. But according to the National Science Foundation, further evaluation and methodology of testing soils, sheet piling, and the concrete walls was never done.

So let me get this straight:

1. New Orleans Floodwalls built.
2. Mimicked Floodwalls tested and failed.
3. Test Results widely distributed through Corps and Orleans Parish Levee District - nothing done about it.
4. Katrina slams coast - New Orleans floodwalls fail and make the world's largest wave pool.
5. Corps sponsored panel claims that the floodwall failure was "unforeseeable" but they conveniently forget the 1986 floodwall test.
6. National Science Foundation exposes the Corps and it's pet panel for what they are.

Now maybe this isn't quite as obvious as "Bin Laden determined to attack in the United States" but something should have done to those walls when the Corps KNEW that they were doomed to fail. And now the Corps is bullshitting everyone by saying "unforeseeable". Where's the fucking accountability?