Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Defense -> Corps of Engineers

Corps of EngineersGrade
The Promise: "...will ensure that New Orleans has a levee and pumping system to protect the city against a 100-year storm by 2011, with the ultimate goal of protecting the entire city from a Category 5 storm."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Rebuilding the Gulf Coast and Preventing Future Catastrophes", dated 09/11/08.
Status:In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rated as a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with sustained winds of 100 to 140 miles per hour, classified as a 400-year storm with a 0.25% chance of occurring in any year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is credited with repairing levees and pumping systems in the New Orleans area and beyond.

The main concern for New Orleans residents is that although the pre-Katrina levee/pumping system has largely been restored and strengthened, that restoration has been limited to fast-moving, moderate Category 3 hurricane protection standards.

In 06/10, the Corps of Engineers delivered its 8,000 page Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Study to Congress -- nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina and nearly 2.5 years late in delivery. The report failed to provide a listing of projects that could ultimately defend the Louisiana coast from the ravages of a Category 5 hurricane. In the study, the Corps estimated that it would cost between $70B and $136B to protect Louisiana's coastline at the Category 5 level, a 1,000-year storm with 0.1% chance of occurring in any year. A Category 5 system around New Orleans would require 30-foot levees whereas some of the rebuilt levees and flood walls around New Orleans are 10.5 feet high.

After a $14.5B investment to rebuild the New Orleans levee system, Corps of Engineers reports in 08/11 indicated that the new New Orleans levee system was rated as a Level II (unsafe or potentially unsafe, requiring interim risk reduction measures and remediation plan and priorities).

In the final analysis, the rebuilt New Orleans levee system can now withstand a slow-moving Category 2 hurricane or a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane. Anything beyond that, and the levee system could fail again.

Nonetheless, New Orleans is now protected from a 100-year storm but not from a Category 5 hurricane.

Although the ultimate goal articulated in this promise was not met, tangible progress was made toward promise fulfillment.