The New York Times reported on Friday that the Army Corps of Engineers have broken ground on what is said to be a crucial part of their plan to protect New Orleans from deadly hurricanes. A giant floodwall, two miles in length, will be erected by the year 2011. When completed, the wall will be up to 26 feet high in some areas.
The floodwall will be the largest civil works project of its type in the history of the Army Corps of Engineers. The projected cost of the awesome mega-structure will run about $695 million. This sounds like a large sum of money, but when you consider how much damage and destruction was done by hurricane Katrina it’s a modest amount to pay to protect such a beautiful city, not to mention the precious lives of its residents and guests.
The structure is being designed to block a storm surge in the Gulf of Mexico from entering the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and the city’s Barrier Channel. The Channel, which is officially called the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, is located between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. The storm surge that came through the channel in 2005 was responsible for bursting through the protective walls and sending a wall of water into the city of New Orleans.
Water was also coming over the floodwalls of the Industrial Canal during the much milder Hurricane Gustav last September. This was all the evidence the Army Corps of Engineers needed to assure them that a new and larger floodwall was necessary.
The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Reduction Project, as it is officially called, is designed to shield the Canal itself, even though it will be located miles away from the canal itself. The project has received very little attention from the public or news media. Even at the ground breaking ceremony it was clear that the community’s outrage over the threat from hurricanes has faded. Even so, there were some senior corps officials at the ground breaking to explain the importance of this project.
The floodwall should greatly reduce the risk of a flood surge, and will be an integral part of the city’s system of levees, walls, and floodgates. The Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Co. of Baton Rouge has won the bid to construct the massive barrier.
The wall will run North to South roughly at the point where the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and Gulf Intercoastal Waterway meet, the most crucial point to protect against storm surges, according to experts.