National Geographic has published an article on the New Orleans levee system entitled "New Orleans Levees, Are They Safe?". The article indicates, as has been reported from other sources, that the levees are now back to where they were Pre-Katrina, but is that really good enough? A group funded by the NSF with members including UMR Professor J. David Rogers and Berkley professor Bob Bea has pointed out various shortcomings of the levee system. The Corps has responded with the view that the levee system is adequate, and that new flood gates will prevent a storm surge like Katrina’s from overtopping the existing levee system.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans district is looking for an unprecedented 100 Million Cubic Yards of Clay to be used for reconstruction and fortification of levees in the New Orleans area. Once borrow sources are approved by the Corps, they will likely be contracting directly with a USACOE contractor constructing one of the projects associated with New Orleans Hurricane Protection System. Material specs are USCS classification of CL or CH, <35% sand, PI < 10, organic content < 9%.
That is the title of a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article on post-Katrina levee issues in New Orleans (by way of ASCE Smart Brief). I think the article is somewhat sensationalized, but they do cite some interesting parallels between the levee reconstruction efforts made after Katrina and the levee construction/reconstruction that occurred after Hurricane Betsy in 1965.
The article also discusses a recent US Army audit with some disturbing although not unexpected findings:
An initial September 2010 target to complete the $14.8 billion in post-Katrina work has slipped to mid-2011. Then last September, an Army audit found 84 percent of work behind schedule because of engineering complexities, environmental provisos and real estate transactions. The report added that costs would likely soar.
A more recent analysis shows the start of 84 of 156 projects was delayed – 15 of them by six months or more. Meanwhile, a critical analysis of what it would take to build even stronger protection – 500-year-type levees – was supposed to be done last December but remains unfinished.