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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  1. Thank you, Mr. McBride. If London Ave were to fail again along with the 17th Street Canal Breach Repair (which is actively leaking), would that mean the complete reflooding of everything in between…again?

    Could you please direct your considerable acumen onto the Leaking 17th Street Canal Levee “Repair”. You can find extensive coverage on this at the Ladder. I myself went and stuck my arms up to my elbows in one of these on May 26th, and could feel the flowing water, smell the canal. It turns out that the water is in fact brackish. As of June 22nd, that one leak (of 4 I saw) has grown 5 times the size it was then.

    Could you also discuss those new pumps right next to this Breaching Levee “repair” as to the pressure they might exert on the base of this repair job underwater, ergo wherever this leak is entering the levee repair to emerge where we find it on the other side heading for Lakeview? Those are huge pumps which were not there before the storm. Have they been tested?

    I wish that more people could go see this leak and document it. I fear that the Corps will attempt to cover the evidence, like right now, today. This is actively flowing water. Will that levee hold even for a tropical storm like Gloria the summer of Katrina, let alone a hurricane?

    I appreciate your work on all of this, and hope that you can exuse my ignorant terror at the notion of seeing those levees fail again. Been there, done that, and all I gots to show for it?
    Well, I do got me a Living Ladder.

    Thank you,
    Editilla~New Orleans News Ladder

  2. Mr. McBride,
    I went ahead and cross’posted this onto today’s Ladder as it continues to offer much needed, continuous salient rebuttal to the Corps ongoing PR shotgun that they did not build these levees which are failing before our lyin’eyes.
    That is the story that they are very effectively telling the nation.
    Bubbas with bulldozers, muskrats, global warming, Katrina the Clown…everyone but the Corps is responsible for our failing flood control infrastructure.
    All the while that 17th Street Canal Levee is LEAKING.

    Surprised that I missed this one on the 12th I fanged back through the Ladder to find out why. I always try to snag your word on the Corps. Well, we got the Koz article on duct tape and rusty pumps. The only excuse I can proffer is that we have been all up in the flooding upstream, though I have a hard time apologizing for an obvious risi’aqua phobia.
    Please check back through this weeks Ladder, mainly the past few days, to follow the development of this leak.
    My email is in the profile.

    Thank you,
    Eiditlla~New Orleans News Ladder

  3. Matt McBride

    Since I wrote this, I’ve been bugging the principals involved in the load test to issue the final report. I got a response late last week from one of the Corps engineers in St. Louis that the peer review took longer than expected. He said to expect the report to be publicly issued in the next couple of weeks.

    On May 19th, the Corps told the East Bank levee board to expect the report by June 1. Then a couple of days before June 1, they said to expect the report by June 15th. Now on June 26th they say to expect it by July 10th. See a pattern?

    I will keep banging on them until it gets squeezed out. If I don’t don’t get an adequate response from one level, the web makes it very easy to find people’s bosses and go right up the chain, all the way to Gen. Van Antwerp.

    I’ve actually been asking for this report (as have many others) since at least March. It’s been over 10 months since the test.

  4. Matt McBride

    Correction: the SLFPA-East meeting was on May 15th, not the 19th.

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