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River And Hurricane Levees Classified 'Moderate To High Risk'

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US Army Corps of Engineers
Several factors contributed to the final risk classification: levee strength, hazards faced, and population affected, and more.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a system for classifying river and hurricane levees across the country. On Thursday, officials announced the final classifications for Southeast Louisiana. From Baton Rouge to New Orleans levee systems are considered “Moderate to High Risk.”

Though that may sound concerning, the Army Corps stresses that these classifications are not safety ratings. New Orleans District commander Colonel Mike Clancy says the levees themselves are in good shape.

“In the greater New Orleans area,” he says, “all the work we’ve done on the system since Katrina — it’s been phenomenal. Best hurricane defenses in the country. Probably the world.”

The new classifications are more about the whole package: the structural integrity of the levees, plus other factors, like how many people would suffer if they failed, the value of properties inside the levee, and the likelihood of hurricanes and floods.

 

Jennifer Stephens is the Levee Safety Program Manager for the Corps. She says the main reason for the high-risk classification is because so many people live behind levees in South Louisiana,

 

“I would say no matter how high you build [the levees], I would expect it to be a high risk,” she says.

 

Corps officials say the classifications are not tied to the National Flood Insurance Program and will not affect flood insurance rates.

 

You can find out more about levees in Louisiana and across the country at the Army Corps' national levee database.

Support for the Coastal Desk Comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Foundation for Louisiana, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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