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Army Corps Assesses Need For Levee Improvements

Army Corp of Engineers
Engineering analysis indicates the HSDRRS will no longer provide 1% level of risk reduction as early as 2023.

The levees that protect New Orleans are sinking, just as officials knew they would. The Army Corps is doing a study to figure out what repairs are needed. On Tuesday the agency held several public meetings on the process.

The Corps and local levee authorities built a $14 billion Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) around the city after Hurricane Katrina. Because of the soft soil the levees were built on, they’re naturally sinking. Sea level rise also poses a risk.

If the system sinks or is damaged to the point that it can no longer provide protection from a 100-year storm - a storm with a one percent chance of happening - property in New Orleans will become too vulnerable to flooding to receive subsidized federal flood insurance.

The Corps has received federal money to study how to reinforce the system so that that does not happen. Before they finalize their plan, they are collecting input from residents, like Jim Goodwin, who lives in Algiers Point. He worries about the safety of his home and neighborhood.

Goodwin says, “Algiers is one of the high points in the city but we want to maintain that feeling of security. But we’re always vulnerable.”

Army Corps project manager Bradley Drouant presented the plan at meetings in Algiers and Army Corps headquarters on Leake Avenue Tuesday. He says the Corps’ study will take three years and cost $3 million. The agency is looking at a number of potential fixes.

Drouant says, “We can’t limit ourselves to just looking at levee lifts, we have to look at other potential possibilities, like floodproofing critical infrastructure and raising infrastructure.”

Once the study is complete, the city may receive matching funds from the federal government to help make the repairs.


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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