US Army Corps of Engineers

Parts of the Mississppi River levee system are at risk of overtopping due to storm surge from Tropical Storm Barry.
United States Army Corps of Engineers

A few sections of levee along the Mississippi River are at risk of being overtopped in Southeast Louisiana. The reason: storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico. WWNO's Travis Lux spoke with Ricky Boyett from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about why this is happening and which areas are the most at risk. 

Army Corp of Engineers

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.

Travis Lux / WWNO

Heavy rains in the Midwest have caused the Mississippi River to swell. To relieve pressure on local levees, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin operating the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Norco on Wednesday.

The levees near New Orleans are only built to handle water moving at 1.25 million cubic feet per second -- quick enough to fill the Superdome in about a minute, the Corps estimates. When the river gets going that fast the Corps opens the spillway, diverting some of that water into Lake Pontchartrain.

CPRA

On Wednesday, congress passed America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which could encourage the Army Corps of Engineers to build more green infrastructure.

Infrastructure bills are fairly routine. Generally passed every couple years, they often approve lists of projects for things like river dredging or levees -- projects that the Corps builds.

New this year: a section that requires the Corps to consider “natural or nature-based” projects as alternatives if it wants to build something.

US Army Corps of Engineers

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.

NOAA

Hurricane season starts June 1st. In their annual outlook released today, forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict that the Atlantic Ocean will see "above average" hurricane activity this hurricane season, which runs through November 30th.

 


Tegan Wendland / WWNO

The Mississippi River remains high as floodwater makes its way south from the Midwest, and the Army Corps of Engineers is inspecting the levees daily for problems like leaks.

 

The Corps started inspecting the river about two weeks ago, as the water began to rise.

Delayed Restoration Project Breaks Ground

May 16, 2017
Travis Lux / WWNO

The Army Corps will use sand and silt from the bottom of the Mississippi River to build new marshes. The restoration project has been delayed for several years, but is set to break ground next month.

Flickr/Washington State House Republicans's photostream (CC BY-ND 2.0)

On Monday, Congress unveiled a spending bill that would fund the federal government through September. It includes $9 million for coastal restoration projects in Louisiana.

 

In an effort to help the state fight coastal land loss, the Army Corps of Engineers sometimes uses the mud it dredges from from navigation channels and the Mississippi River to rebuild marshes. It’s the Corps’ job to keep the river passable, so in these cases it reuses the material that it digs up.