In Southern Louisiana, Residents Blame New Orleans Levees for Floods
At the urging of residents who have long felt forgotten in the shadow of more densely populated New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers says it will look into whether the city’s fortified defenses pushed floodwaters into outlying areas.
However, the Corps has said it’s unlikely scientific analysis will confirm that theory suggested not only by locals, but by some of the state’s most powerful politicians. Instead, weather specialists say a unique set of circumstances about the storm — not the floodwalls surrounding the New Orleans metro area — had more to do with flooding neighborhoods that in recent years have never been under water because of storm surge.
Isaac was a large, slow-moving storm that wobbled across the state’s coast for about 2½ days, pumping water into back bays and lakes and leaving thousands of residents under water outside the massive levee system protecting metropolitan New Orleans. The storm was blamed for seven deaths and damaged thousands of homes on the Gulf Coast.
The Corps’ study was prompted by the suggestion that Isaac’s surge bounced off the levees and floodgates built since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and walloped communities outside the city’s ramparts.
Blaming the Army Corps of Engineers is nothing new in southern Louisiana, a region that is both dependent on the Corps and distrustful of an agency that wields immense power in this world of wetlands, rivers, and lakes, all of which fall under the agency’s jurisdiction.
The Corps was roundly criticized after Hurricane Katrina, which pushed in enough water to break through the levees that had surrounded New Orleans. Much of the city was left underwater, and since then the government has spent millions rebuilding the system of floodwalls protecting the metro area.
Before that, the Corps was blamed for the unraveling of coastal marshes by erecting levees on the Mississippi River.