Sheet Piling Controversy in New Orleans

One of the principal concerns with the shallow embedment is that of seepage forces causing piping and undermining of the sheet pile wall and a subsequent failure such as what happened with the failure of the London Canal. The USACOE says that the safe water level in the 17th Street canal has now been lowered to 6-ft. However University of California-Berkeley engineer Bob Bea when asked about the shallow sheet piling said "Now I’m hearing 4 1/2 feet, and even with a safe water level of 6, that gives me the heeby-jeebies."

Bea further questions why an independent review of the USACE’s IPET report has not been performed. He was a member of the Independent Levee Inspection Team financed by the National Science Foundation. In the Times-Picayune article, he was quoted as saying:

"When are these guys going to learn? This is like running into the gang of bullies who beat you up yesterday and having them say, ‘Trust us today,’¤" Bea said. "Nineteen months after Katrina, they’re still checking their own work. They should be inviting peer review and welcoming collaboration as a way of showing that they really want to move forward together."

However, a March 26, 2007 press release by the USACE regarding the IPET report states that it was peer reviewed by "an External Review Panel of national experts from the American Society of Civil Engineers and by the National Academies – National Research Council Committee on New Orleans Hurricane Protection Projects".

The Interim Final IPET report is available at