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A Decade After Disaster, Army Corps Touts Infrastructure Improvements

Tegan Wendland
A sea vessel gate at the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier in St. Bernard Parish.

Ten years after Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers says it is ready for the next big one. The Corps has built new levees, floodwalls and gated structures over the past decade to protect the city and its people.


Army Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett says the 133-mile flood protection system guarding New Orleans today is a true, comprehensive system — unlike the levees that surrounded the city prior to Katrina.

Boyett took a boat ride with the St Bernard Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday to show off the massive Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier, which is designed to reduce the risk of water surge from Lake Borgne and the Gulf of Mexico.

Boyett says the old system of levees was flawed and let water into the city, “Now, with the perimeter system, we want to back that water literally 12 miles away," says Boyett. "In the background you can see the skyline of New Orleans so that really illustrates how we want to block the surge at the perimeter.”



The IHNC-Lake Borgne Surge Barrier is the largest design-build civil works project in the history of the Corps.
Credit US Army Corps of Engineers

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Credit Tegan Wendland / WWNO
The 26-foot-high, 1.8 mile long surge barrier is built to withstand 100-year storms until 2057, and can be lengthened if necessary.

Boyett says people should feel safer as a result of the $14 billion worth of structures built in the New Orleans area, but not too comfortable. “This system will protect the infrastructure, the homes and businesses, but it should not be relied on to protect yourself,” he says.

Boyett says the Corps has plenty of other projects in the works and they’re far from finished. The next phase will involve coastal restoration efforts, like building new marshland, to provide even more protection from the next 100-year-flood.


Support for WWNO's Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Coypu Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. 

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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