Fortress chronicles astonishing N.O. levee project
THE FORTRESS OF NEW ORLEANS
By book project group at Evans-Graves Engineers
Evans-Graves Engineers, Inc., $49.95
“When Hurricane Katrina blew ashore on August 29, 2005, no one could have imagined the sheer devastation that would ensue. This monstrous hurricane caused several breaches in the hurricane protection system surrounding New Orleans, resulting in flooding across four parishes. The storm took hundreds of lives, caused billions of dollars in damages to homes and buildings, and created mountains of debris,” the introduction to The Fortress of New Orleans declares.
No one in Louisiana needs to be reminded how bad Katrina was. The response has been to construct the largest “Civil Works Program in U.S. History.” That being the raising and repairing of the levees around New Orleans to insure against damage from anything up to and including a 100-year-flood (the highest flood that occurs, on average, in 100 years for a given location). The project, the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) was finished in September 2011. Levees, outfall canals, pump stations and outlying projects were included in HSDRRS. This big coffee-table book (14 by 11 inches) uses text, maps and high quality color photographs to explain and chronicle the project.
It is impressive, and among the many similar levee photos are some that are quite beautiful as well as some wildlife and scenic photos that any photographer would be happy to have taken. Text, photos, graphics and charts were all generated by a project group at Evans-Graves Engineers, Inc. in Baton Rouge which worked on HSDRRS. The cost of HSDRRS has amounted to $15.8 billion. A table at the back of the book lists each project within the larger plan, what contractor was awarded the work, where it was and how much it cost.
As breathtaking as the funding and the actual work were, it’s the finished product that ought to amaze everyone. When you look at a project that comprised 133 miles of levees, floodwall, system gates and pump station and required 93 million cubic yards of borrow clay, it’s just astonishing that it was ever finished. But it was, and it was in time for Hurricane Isaac in 2012. All the areas within the HSDRRS remained unflooded, but areas outside, notably in LaPlace and Plaquemines Parish were still badly flooded. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assessing data now to see if the HSDRRS played any part in these outlying problems. Whether or not they find any connection, the fact remains that HSDRRS is a modern marvel of the world, right here in Louisiana. This book is a first-hand look at how and what was done. It’ll leave you shaking your head in wonder.