Massive Effort, Yet Questions Linger

Total government spending on building up New Orleans flood and hurricane defenses stands at $20 billion.

That came from local, state and federal government.

“I hope and pray that the money was well spent and it is a decent system,” grocer Burnell Cotlon told the New York Times.

A recent detailed Times analysis one of the nation’s foremost infrastructure efforts in the past decade show that while much was done, it remains to be seen whether the system will be watertight.

“The problem, in the argot of flood protection, is that the Army Corps of Engineers designed the new system to protect against the storms that would cause a “100-year” flood — a flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year,” the Times wrote. “And that, experts say, is simply insufficient for an urban area certain to face more powerful storms.”

Climate change will raise ocean levels, making the storm surges that batter the coast ever more powerful.

“Climate change is turning that 100-year flood, that 1 percent flood, into a 5 percent flood or a 20-year flood,” Rick Luettich told the Times. He is flooding expert and vice-hairman of one of the New Orleans area’s two regional levee authorities.

But given limited resources – and the need to protect vast swaths of Louisiana well beyond the confines of New Orleans – many government officials and local citizens hope that better infrastructure will give the city a fighting chance when hurricane winds inevitably howl once again.

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