More on seepage – and what the Corps is holding back

Jun 12, 2008 by

Once more HumidCity is proud to syndicate the emails of engineer Matt McBride, the man who formerly helmed Fix The Pumps.

Dear New Orleanians,

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out an email about a report the Corps is holding back. It is the final report for the London Avenue canal load test, and it has been delayed for months. In fact the test took place last August. After I sent that email, I heard they are planning to release it before June 15th. We’ll see.

While members of the public and their appointed representatives on the East Bank Levee Authority cannot yet see the report, the Corps is all too content to trumpet the success of the test to their contractors and fellow employees.

Last week, at the Midwest Levee Conference in St. Louis, the lead Corps engineer and project manager from a Corps contractor for the load test gave an extensive presentation about the test. The Conference was co-sponsored by the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). SAME is the Corps’ professional organization for their engineers – kind of their private clubhouse.

You can see the June 3rd presentation on the load test here:

All the presentations are available here.

What I find interesting are the following:

1) No mention of the the external peer review of the test is mentioned, nor of the Levee Board’s insistence on including testing for seepage effects (originally, the test was only going to measure whether the wall moved, not whether water would move underneath it). In fact there’s absolutely no information whatsoever on the locals’ key involvement in ensuring the test was properly vetted. The presentation gives the impression that the Corps did everything themselves, and that they should be congratulated (Actual bullet point from the last slide: “Test was a success. No water through the wall!“). The fact is they had to be pushed into the peer review on the test.

2) Page after page of actual test data are displayed. None of this data has been made available to the public in New Orleans.

3) The last line of the presentation is a laugher: “Detailed results are available for additional study to enhance the engineering understanding of I-wall performance.” Available to whom, precisely? Other Corps engineers and their contractors? What about making the results available to the public whom the Corps is supposedly protecting before they present them to their buddies?

This is just more evidence of the tin ear the Corps has when it comes to dealing with the public. There’s no way this presentation should have taken place before the report was released to the greater New Orleans community.


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