Corps Faults Itself For Levee Breaks In New Orleans

By Cain Burdeau
Associated Press
Friday, June 2, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, June 1 -- A contrite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility Thursday for the flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and said the levees failed because they were built in a disjointed fashion using outdated data.

"This is the first time that the Corps has had to stand up and say, 'We've had a catastrophic failure,' " Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, the Corps chief, said as the agency issued a 6,000-page report on the disaster on the first day of the new hurricane season.

The Corps said it will use the lessons it has learned to build better flood defenses.

"Words alone will not restore trust in the Corps," Strock said, adding that the Corps is committed "to fulfilling our important responsibilities."

The $19.7 million report includes details on the engineering and design failures that allowed the storm surge to overwhelm New Orleans's levees and floodwalls on Aug. 29.

Many of the findings and details on floodwall design, storm modeling and soil types have been released in pieces in recent months as the Corps sought to show that it was being open about what went wrong. But the final report goes into greater depth.

The much-anticipated report -- prepared by the 150-member Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, assembled and headed by the Corps -- is intended to serve as a road map for engineers as they seek to design and build better levees and floodwalls.

Serious work began on New Orleans's hurricane protection system in the 1960s after Hurricane Betsy flooded the city in 1965. But over the decades funding slackened, and many parts of the system were not finished when Katrina hit.

The result was a disjointed system of levees, inconsistent in quality, materials and design, that left gaps exploited by the storm, the report said.

Last month, a report by outside engineers said the Corps was dysfunctional and unreliable. That group, led by experts from the University of California at Berkeley, recommended setting up an agency to oversee Corps projects nationwide.

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