NOLA Levees 'minimally acceptable'

High Water Street Flooding Getty RF

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

The Army Corps of Engineers is revamping its levee classification system. At first glance, the new rating for New Orleans - "minimally acceptable" - may be alarming. Yet, Corps reps say it's all about perspective.

Anyone analyzing the data may have a tough time understanding where we've improved.

"For this to be minimally acceptable is a bit of a surprise to us. It's like, okay, here for over 40 years it was outstanding. Now, it's minimally acceptable and we just revamped all the levee boards," explained Levees.org Director of Research H.J. Bosworth.

Yet, there's no such thing as an "outstanding" rating anymore, just "acceptable," "minimally acceptable" and "unacceptable". Representatives with the Army Corps of Engineers say that's in order to offer a more realistic view of the levee system.

"We need to look at them from an unbiased approach where we fully understand the level of the system, what it can do as well as what it is designed to protect against," said Army Corps of Engineers' Ricky Boyett. 

Now, the Corps takes into account what's at risk in the event of a 100-year event.

"You have a flood in the city where you have people and infrastructure and big box stores and stadiums and all sorts of important stuff people are concerned with, it's a bigger deal so, that's the risk factor that the new risk ratings address. You have a flood in the city where you have people and infrastructure and big box stores and stadiums and all sorts of important stuff people are concerned with, it's a bigger deal so, that's the risk factor that the new risk ratings address," Bosworth said. 

In New Orleans, there's a lot at stake, making us very high risk.

So, what does "minimally acceptable" mean? Corps representatives say, the rating shouldn't be cause for concern.

"We know that we've built a great system. It's one of the best systems in the country, if not the world. We also know that, inevitably, there will be a storm that is greater than what that system is designed and we have to take that into account," Boyett explained.

But improvements are in the works as engineers build the system to withstand an even stronger storm.

"We've had storms that are larger than the one-percent event so we are building what we consider resiliency into the system and that's through armoring and with the armoring complete in the next year and a half, we will have a storm system that is resilient to a 500 year or greater storm," said Boyett.

Army Corps reps tell FOX 8 they are still working to improve the classification system and should have a final system in place in several months. 

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