How Safe is the 17th St. Canal?

Aug 2, 2007 by

Here we go folks, missives from Matt McBride- our Guardian Engineer. After outing the Coprs to the press concerning their faulty pumps he has ceased blogging, but like most of us cannot stand at the sidelines when he sees wrongdoing. I will be posting his emails as I receive them. And now, the man himself:
Dear New Orleanians and those who care about our city,
A couple of weeks ago, there was a stir about erosion of the west wall of the 17th Street canal. Here’s one of the articles:
Corps to test erosion at 17th Street Canal (Times-Picayune, July 20, 2007)
WWL-TV did a story on the evening of July 25, 2007 in which the Corps said there was nothing to worry about. That was the last report. it is linked here:
A substory was when did the Corps know about this erosion, and did they inform the local levee board(s) about it? A clear answer didn’t really come out of the coverage.
I can provide that answer, and more.
The above link goes to an internal inspection report of the entire 17th Street canal performed by Corps of Engineers employees in May, 2006, over 14 months ago. Among many findings and recommendations for repairs, it documents erosion in the exact spot that was the subject of the press accounts two weeks ago (on the west side of the canal just north of the Veterans Memorial Blvd bridge). It recommends placement of riprap (piles of stone) to staunch the erosion.
But there is far, far more to this report. Through a series of pictures, it documents serious (and admittedly not-so-serious) flaws in the levees and walls along both sides of the canal, from the lake all the way back to Pumping Station #6. Among the serious flaws:
– open pipes penetrating through the walls where they join the levee
– numerous spots of erosion on both sides of the canal along its entire length
– 20 foot long gouges in the levee
– wall segments actually displaced from where they should be (the Corps terms it “jutted”) in multiple spots, some by up to 2 inches.
– spots where the levee and the bottom of the concrete walls have separated, leaving a large gap
This report was attached as an appendix to another report (the 17th Street Canal Safe Water Level report) that was issued by the Corps two months ago, or 12 months after it was generated. It was on a CD that came with the 4″ thick main report. By the way, you can see the main part of that SWL report linked here.
It is, to say the least, “unclear” if the May, 2006 inspection was passed along to the locals. One has a hard time believing that if it were passed along, that there wouldn’t have been immediate action to address these issues. I happen to know that other than emergency repairs along the east bank of the canal near Vets (which were done in response to the Safe Water Level report, not this earlier inspection), none of the issues have been addressed. No rip rap has been placed anywhere except the emergency repair area, near the breach, and near the gates. None has been placed along the Jefferson Parish (west) side.
So the outlines of the story are this:
A) The Corps had a report listing dozens of individual flaws in the condition of the levees and walls along the 17th Street canal for over a year and did not release it
B) Most of those flaws still exist.
C) So naturally, the condition of the canal is suspect.
The questions are:
A) Why did this report languish inside the Corps for a year?
B) Are there similar reports from the same timeframe for the Orleans Avenue, London Avenue, and Industrial canals?
C) What will be/has been done, if anything, to address these problems?
Take a look at the pictures and tell me that you’re not disturbed.
By the way, there are two other things:
1) I got this report on Tuesday, July 31, 2007.
2) I sent it along to many, many members of the local and national media (including the Times-Picayune) yesterday. When I didn’t see any coverage this morning, I decided to inform the general public. Frankly, the report speaks for itself, and it would not take very long to bang out a story on it and provide a link. Since the traditional media have now had 24 hours and have done nothing, I’m going to do their job for them.


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