Water Resources

Expert Views on Hurricane and Flood Protection and Water Resources Planning for a Rebuilt Gulf Coast 

The Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment

Hearing on

Expert Views On Hurricane And Flood Protection And
Water Resources Planning For A Rebuilt Gulf Coast

October 20, 2005


The Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, October 20, 2005, at 10:00 a.m. in 2167 RHOB to receive testimony from public and private witnesses on how to integrate hurricane, storm and flood protection, navigation, coastal ecosystem restoration, and other water resources needs, while meeting local objectives for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On Thursday, October 27, 2005, also at 10:00 a.m. in 2167 RHOB, the Subcommittee will receive testimony from national flood damage reduction and floodplain management experts regarding flood risks throughout the nation and the policy implications of any decisions to provide hurricane and storm damage protection for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

On October 20, 2005, the Subcommittee will receive testimony from the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), the Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a representative of the Governor of Louisiana, and a representative of the Governor of Mississippi, as well as U.S. and Dutch civil engineering experts, a coastal restoration expert, a navigation expert, and a geologist.

On October 27, 2005, the Subcommittee will receive testimony from Dr. Gerald E. Galloway (Brigadier General, U.S. Army, Ret.), a representative of the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies, and a representative of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.


Damage Caused by the Hurricane

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Gulfport, Mississippi, at about 7:10 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane. While there was a great deal of wind damage, Katrina was a fast-moving hurricane and did not result in torrential rains. However, the hurricane created storm surges that caused widespread damage in Louisiana and Mississippi.

On the west side of the hurricane, a storm surge swept from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, into Lake Pontchartrain. Water then surged into the canals that ordinarily drain stormwater from the city of New Orleans into the Lake, as well as into the navigation canal that connects Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River. The water breached levees along the 17th Street Canal, the London Canal, and the Industrial Canal. (See picture 1, attached)

As a result of levee breaches, there was significant flooding in the 9th Ward, Lakeview, and Mid City neighborhoods of New Orleans. Because much of the city lies below sea level, water did not drain out naturally. Instead, water moved across the middle of the city up to the Central Business District. Approximately 80 percent of the city was flooded. Another storm surge moved from the Gulf of Mexico across Lake Borgne and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and breached levees along that navigation channel.

While trees were uprooted and roofs sustained some wind damage, the most significant damage in New Orleans was the result of the flood waters that inundated the city up to 20 feet. As a result, many homes were left standing, but are uninhabitable. EPA and the State of Louisiana estimate that between 140,000 and 160,000 homes will have to be torn down. (See picture 2.) The levee breaches also caused significant flooding in St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish. The damage in these parishes included complete destruction of homes as a result of the storm surge. (See picture 3.) Over 1000 Louisiana residents lost their life.

On the east side of the hurricane, a 27 foot storm surge swept miles inland, leaving almost total devastation in its path. Unlike in the city of New Orleans, along the Mississippi coast homes and other structures were simply obliterated, leaving only bare foundations and matchstick-like rubble. (See picture 4.) Over 221 Mississippi residents lost their life.

This destruction has left a significant amount of debris that must be removed before rebuilding can take place. In Louisiana, the total amount of debris is estimated to be between 62 and 63 million cubic yards. In Mississippi, the total amount of debris is estimated to be 62.5 million cubic yards. In contrast, Hurricane Andrew generated 20 million cubic yards of debris.

According to Risk Management Solutions, a company that analyzes catastrophic risks for the insurance industry, the insured losses from hurricane Katrina are likely to be between $40 and $60 billion, of which $15 to $20 billion is the result of flooding following the levee failure. In contrast, the insured losses following Hurricane Andrew were $21.5 billion. Total economic losses from Hurricane Katrina are estimated to exceed $125 billion, of which half is estimated to be the result of flooding following the levee failure.

Currently Authorized Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Projects in the Gulf Coast

Currently, there are no authorized hurricane and storm damage reduction projects along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. There are five authorized hurricane and storm damage reduction projects in the Louisiana coastal area under various stages of construction: Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity, West Bank and Vicinity, New Orleans to Venice, Larose to Golden Meadow, and Grand Isle and Vicinity. (See figure 1, attached.) An additional project, Morganza to the Gulf, has a signed Chief’s Report recommending construction, but has not yet been authorized by Congress. Most of the levees that failed were part of the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity project, which is discussed in detail below. (See figures 2 and 3.) The other five projects, including the total project costs, degree of completion, cost-share, benefit to cost ratio, and degree of protection provided, are summarized in an attachment.

The Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Project is located in St. Charles, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany Parishes and is still under construction. This project is intended to provide protection to the greater New Orleans area east of the Mississippi and other communities bordering Lake Pontchartrain. The Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity hurricane protection project was authorized in section 204 of the Flood Control Act of 1965 ( 79 Stat. 1077), based on the recommendations of the Report of the Chief of Engineers dated June 28, 1965, H. Doc. No. 231, 89th Congress. At that time, the total cost of the project was estimated to be $84,826,000.

Construction began in May 1967 and the project currently is 90 percent complete. The total cost of the project currently is estimated to be $738 million ($528 million federal). The project is cost shared at 70 percent federal, 30 percent non-federal and currently has a benefit to cost ratio of 2.8 to 1 at a 7 percent discount rate. The non-federal sponsors are the Orleans Levee District, the St. Bernard Parish Police Jury and Lake Borgne Basin Levee District, the Orleans Levee District, the East Jefferson Levee District and the State of Louisiana (for St. Tammany Parish) and the Pontchartrain Levee District.

The Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity project that is under construction is not the project that was recommended initially by the Chief of Engineers. The 1965 Chief’s Report recommended a two-part project. The first part consisted of levees and floodwall barrier on the southeast side of Lake Pontchartrain to prevent storm surges from Lake Borgne from entering the Lake. The second part consisted of enlarged levees on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain and repair and reinforcement of the existing seawall at Mandeville on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The recommended barrier consisted of a lock and flood gate at Rigolets, a navigation gate and flood gate in Chef Menteur Pass. The barrier plan was estimated to cost $64,703,000 with a benefit to cost ratio of 18.9 to 1. The plan for the Chalmette area consisted of 17.3 miles of new and enlarged levees on the south banks of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) to Bayou Dupre, and then west to the Mississippi River levee at Violet. This segment was estimated to cost $15,143,000 and had a benefit to cost ratio of 9 to 1. Finally, the project included a lock for the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (the Industrial Canal), to prevent storm surges from entering Lake Pontchartrain from MRGO and to mitigate adverse salinity in Lake Pontchartrain caused by the MRGO, at a cost of $4,980,000, with the costs and benefits allocated to the MRGO, reducing the benefit to cost ratio of that project to 1.7 to 1.

The Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity project was designed based on the modeling of three hypothetical hurricanes representing hurricanes having forces that were expected from the most severe combination of meteorological conditions reasonably characteristic of the region approaching from three different paths (a standard project hurricane). The result was a plan designed to provide protection from hurricane flood levels and storm surge having an estimated frequency of about once in every 200 years. Based on the standard project hurricane, the project was designed to protect against a maximum storm surge of 11.2 feet along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, 12.5 feet in Mandeville, 11.9 feet in the Chalmette area, 12.5 feet in the Citrus area and New Orleans East back levees, and 13 feet at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass. The normal level of Lake Pontchartrain is one foot above sea level (with an average depth of 14 feet) and it has a tide of about 0.5 foot.

At the time the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity project was designed, the Weather Bureau did not classify hurricanes into categories. However, the standard project hurricane is estimated to be a category 3 hurricane. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast as a category 4 hurricane. The storm surge was so great that many flood gages failed, so information on the size of the storm surge is incomplete. In Lake Pontchartrain, a gage recorded a 6.8 foot surge before it failed. In Lake Maurepas, the gage recorded 3.05 feet before it failed. In Point a la Hache, along the Mississippi River south of New Orleans in Plaquemine Parish, the gage recorded 14.14 feet before it failed. Along the Mississippi Coast the storm gage in Hancock recorded 28 feet. The Biloxi River surged to 26 feet. The Pascagoula gage failed at 12.16 feet but the surge is estimated at 16.1 feet based on the high water mark outside of a building.

The feasibility study that led to the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity project focused on two alternatives. The first alternative, the barrier-low level plan discussed above, became the recommended plan. The second alternative, the high level plan, involved raising, strengthening, and extending existing levees to protect against the standard project hurricane. The levees along the Industrial Canal, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and the MRGO would remain high under either plan, since they would be unaffected by the barrier.

The Corps determined that the high level plan was more costly, at approximately $100 million. In addition, the high level plan had a longer construction period because of the increased height of the levees and “poor foundation conditions.” The high level plan had to be constructed in 2 year intervals, to allow settling between each lift of the levee. Based on these considerations, the Corps focused the detailed study on the barrier- low level plan.

In comments on the draft feasibility study, the Department of the Interior recommended that the barriers be enlarged to ensure no effect on the salinity of Lake Pontchartrain. The Corps of Engineers declined to follow this recommendation before completing the feasibility study, relying on earlier modeling showing no adverse affects on salinity, as well as the recommended lock at the Lake Pontchartrain end of the Industrial Canal to control salinity from the MRGO. The Corps also stated that salinity effects would be carefully considered and given further study in the design of the project.

Congress authorized the recommended plan (the barrier-low level plan) in 1965 and the Corps of Engineers began construction in May 1967. On January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted. Even though this project predated NEPA, the Corps of Engineers developed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in August 1974 and held a public hearing in 1975. In October 1975, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the EIS. On December 5, 1976, a group called “Save Our Wetlands” along with the Clio Sportsman’s League and the St. Tammany Parish Policy Jury, filed a lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers alleging a violation of NEPA in the development of certain portions of the recommended plan, including the barriers at Chef Menteur and Rigolets, and the Chalmette and East New Orleans portion of the plan (Civ. A. No. 75-3710, E.D.La.). On December 7, 1976, the district court denied the Corps’ motion to dismiss (424 F. Supp. 354 (E.D. LA, 1976)), and on December 30, 1977, the court issued an injunction halting construction of the barrier plan.

The court found that the EIS was insufficient to comply with NEPA because it did not acknowledge the question of whether or not the barrier would adequately protect the salinity of Lake Pontchartrain. The salinity issue is discussed in the Chief’s Report and the additional modeling that was promised in the Chief’s Report was actually underway at the time the EIS was drafted. However, instead of acknowledging the issue, the EIS relied upon the initial modeling, conducted in 1962 based on an earlier design involving barriers in different locations, to conclude that the barrier gates would not adversely affect the salinity of Lake Pontchartrain. The court also found that, because the Corps did not give sufficient weight to the issue of salinity, it therefore did not adequately explore and analyze alternative plans, as required by NEPA. (As noted above, the alternative plan discussed in the feasibility study, the high level plan, was rejected based on cost, length of construction period, and issues of soil stability causing “adverse foundation conditions.”) The Corps urged the court to recognize that its December 1977 design of the barrier would create the environmental conditions set out in the EIS. However, the court held that this did not obviate the need to develop a new EIS for the project. The court also expressed concern over the adequacy of the cost-benefit analysis of the plan, as well as the local sponsor’s ability to meet its cost-sharing responsibilities.

On January 5, 1978, less than a week after the court issued the injunction, this subcommittee held a hearing in New Orleans on the “Hurricane Protection Plan for Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity.” The hearing made it clear that there was substantial political controversy surrounding the barrier plan. For some, support or opposition relied on where the person lived.

The President of the Board of Commissioners of the New Orleans Levee District strongly supported the barrier plan. The President of Jefferson Parish supported the barrier plan because it would protect Jefferson Parish. The President of the Lake Vista Property Owners Association supported the barrier plan. That community borders the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain and would be protected by the project. The Secretary-Treasurer of St. John the Baptist Parish Police Jury opposed the barrier plan because it did not provide the same level of hurricane protection for that Parish. The Parish was concerned that the barrier would block the lake and cause increased drainage into their parish. The witness did discuss the environmental issues but also said the Parish could possibly support a plan that protected them. The state representative for St. Tammany Parish opposed the barrier plan. The witness raised environmental and economic concerns, but focused on the lack of protection for St. Tammany Parish and the concern that water would go around the barrier to the north and increase flooding in Slidell and other north shore communities.

The President of the St. Bernard Parish Police Jury argued that the Chalmette area levees be considered a separate element and proceed and that the barrier plan be subject to further study to ensure that it “will not protect some and subject many others to the threat of superflooding.”

Others, such as the President of the East Bank Commercial Fisherman’s Association opposed the barrier solely over concern about the salinity of Lake Pontchartrain.

Still others, such as the attorneys representing Save Our Wetlands and the Sportsman League strongly opposed the barrier plan based primarily on concerns that the project would allow development of wetlands. They testified that the 18.9 to 1 benefit to cost ratio of the barrier plan relied largely on the assumption that undeveloped land protected by the project would later be developed. According to these witnesses, absent these benefits, the benefit to cost ratio for the barrier plan would be 4 or 3 to 1. The Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Ecology Center of Louisiana opposed the barrier project, recommending that a flood protection program that does not encourage development be designed. He also questioned the benefits and costs of the project.

Finally, the Executive Assistant to Mayor Landrieu supported the barrier plan, however, in light of the injunction, the witness also supported looking at other alternatives. The representative of Mayor-elect Morial also acknowledged the injunction and supported looking at alternatives to provide protection to the city.

The New Orleans District Engineer defended the barrier plan and testified that the “high-level” plan had the following serious drawbacks:

  • It would take years longer to construct due to subsidence problems.
  • The levees would be wider, requiring more rights-of-way, displacing more residents and businesses.
  • In some locations, floodwalls, which are more vulnerable to severe damage and/or rupture by impact of runaway vessels during a hurricane and would virtually destroy the aesthetic quality of the lakefront, are required.
  • Higher lake levels would severely hamper interior drainage.
  • It was more costly.

Following the injunction, the Corps of Engineers conducted more studies with the Louisiana State University Center for Wetlands Resources and with the University of New Orleans. In 1981, the Corps tentatively recommended the high-level plan. In July 1984, the Corps published a revised EIS based on a modified high level plan. In February 1985, the Chief of Engineers approved changing from the barrier plan to high level plan. The revised project did not include the storm surge protection/salinity control lock at the Lake Pontchartrain end of the Industrial Canal.

Future Hurricane Protection Options and Issues

Since Hurricane Katrina, many have advocated increasing the level of protection for New Orleans and even the entire coast of the State of Louisiana, to withstand a category 5 hurricane. Options suggested include building the barrier plan authorized in 1965; building super levees to raise parts of the city above sea level; building a very high flood wall around the city; restoring the coastal wetlands to reduce the storm surge; and raising the height of all levees in Louisiana to category 5 levels. All of these options have consequences and trade-offs.

If the recommendation is to build the barrier plan, the issues that created political controversy in the 1970s must be resolved. Just as was true in the 1970s, the salinity issue can be addressed by the size and design of the gates. The land development issue may have been overtaken by events. But, the issue of whether or not the barrier plan would worsen hurricane protection for St. Tammany Parish and St. John the Baptist Parish is likely to reemerge. In addition, the gates may need to be higher if they are to provide protection against a Katrina-like hurricane. It was recently reported by the General Accountability Office that Corps staff do not know if the barrier plan recommended in the 1965 Chief’s Report for the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Project would have provided protection against the storm surges caused by Hurricane Katrina. The proposed barriers were designed to protect against a storm surge of 15.2 feet at Chef Menteur and Rigolets. We do not know how high the Hurricane Katrina storm surge was at that location. If the barriers would have been overtopped, then the lower levees proposed in the barrier-low level plan may also have been overtopped, flooding communities surrounding Lake Pontchartrain. If, however, the storm surge did not exceed the project design, and the levees were breached as a result of adverse soil conditions, then the barrier might have prevented the flooding that devastated New Orleans.

If the recommendation is to create a super levee to raise up parts of the city, it is important to know what impact that would have on the culture and community of the city.

If the recommendation is to raise existing levees or construct a new very high ring levee around the city, it is important to know if this option is technically feasible. Making that determination will rely, in part, on an understanding of why the existing levees and floodwalls were breached. Initially, the Corps of Engineers said that the levees were overtopped and then undermined from the bottom by the flow of water, causing collapse. However, engineering experts are conducting an independent study of the cause of levee breaches. While the study is not yet complete, one of the matters under examination is the whether or not the soil under the levees and floodwalls was strong enough to support them. Poor foundation conditions were discussed in the 1965 feasibility study for the project. In 1997, a contractor brought a suit against the Corps to collect increased costs of building floodwalls along the 17th Street Canal. The contractor alleged it incurred increased costs because the Corps’s design was inadequate for the soil conditions. The judge ruled in favor of the Corps on the issue of who was responsible for the increased costs, but did not independently investigate the issue of soil stability.

If the recommendation is to build category 5 levees all along the Louisiana coast, it is important to know the impact of those projects on plans for restoring the Louisiana coastal area. Building a category 5 levee in the same vicinity as proposed diversions from the Mississippi River appears inconsistent. It may not make sense to provide hurricane protection to areas that you later plan to flood to move sediments to the coastal wetlands. It may not make sense to protect structures from category 5 hurricane storm surges if the structures cannot withstand category 5 winds. Also, a decision must be made regarding which communities would be inside the levee, and which would remain outside.

If the recommendation is to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands to reduce storm surges, it is important to know how planned diversions of Mississippi River sediment can be integrated into planned flood protection projects and what impact there will be on navigation. One proposal included in the State of Louisiana’s $14 billion coastal restoration plan, Coast 2050, is to construct a third delta across the Louisiana coast. This project, if technically feasible, would require a significant number of relocations and would cross some levee systems. Another proposal in the Coast 2050 plan is to change the navigation channel of the Mississippi River at Head of Passes, to direct navigation to the east instead of to the mouth of the Mississippi and allow diversion of sediment instead of sending fast moving river water and its sediment load off the outer continental shelf. These proposals require significant analysis before they can be built and under the Coast 2050 plan would be studied in the first five years. Implementation would take place over the long term (16 to 50 years).

In addition, Hurricane Katrina has impacted coastal marshes. Based on a preliminary analysis of satellite data, on September 14, 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that 30 square miles around the upper part of Breton Sound has been converted from marsh to open water, approximately 20 to 26 percent of this 133 square mile area. This is more than the 21 square miles of marsh lost in this area between 1956 and 2004. As a result, some recommended projects may now be moot and other projects may have a higher priority. Finally, some geologists suggest that naturally occurring subsidence will continue the loss of the Louisiana coastal wetlands, notwithstanding any restoration efforts.

Implications For National Flood Control Policy

Under the Flood Control Act of 1936, the federal government participates in flood control projects only where the benefits exceed the costs. As part of a feasibility study, the Corps of Engineers analyzes the costs and benefits of each hurricane and storm damage reduction and flood damage reduction project. However, the benefits that are calculated are primarily the benefits of protecting property. The value of protecting human life is not included because it is assumed that people can get out of the way of a hurricane.

Following Hurricane Katrina, it may be appropriate to reexamine whether that assumption can be made everywhere. The 1965 feasibility study for the Lake Pontchartrain project noted the difficulty of evacuating New Orleans:

“Experience in recent past hurricanes along the Louisiana coast indicates that inhabitants of the low areas are not fully responsive to adequate and timely hurricane warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau. Some leave promptly, some prefer to remain, and others elect to evacuate after such action is no longer feasible. This last group creates the major problem and usually suffers the greatest mortality.”

Other cities may present the same difficulties.

In New Orleans, which is below sea level (see figure 4), the consequences of failing to evacuate can be very high. Nearly 1000 people lost their lives. It is unclear whether other cities present the same combination of difficulty of evacuation and high consequence of flooding. The Corps of Engineers currently cannot tell the Committee which communities are most at risk from hurricane or flood damages. The Corps can tell us the level of flood protection each city has. Under that analysis, with 200 year flood protection, New Orleans has greater protection than many other urban areas. Houston has no flood protection. Miami has up to 100 year flood protection in some areas and little or no protection in others. Sacramento has projects underway to achieve 200 year flood protection. However, the Corps currently does not compare the consequence of a hurricane or flood that exceeds design standards in different cities. Based on a risk and consequence analysis, New Orleans may be most at risk. Sacramento may present a similar situation.

If Congress makes the policy decision to provide an increased level of hurricane protection for New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana, without regard to any benefit-cost analysis, the same standard should be applied to vulnerable communities across the country. Thus, the policy reasons for increasing hurricane protection for New Orleans must be carefully articulated.

In addition, some have argued that new hurricane protection projects and coastal restoration projects in the State of Louisiana should be carried out at full federal cost because the economy of the region has been devastated. Under ordinary cost-sharing principles, the local cost share would be 35 percent. However, under section 103(k) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, the Corps also may defer the payment of a local cost share without interest during project construction and may allow payment of the local share, with interest, over 30 years following completion of construction. Any projects under discussion will take years to complete. Hopefully the economy of the region will rebound before then. If Congress makes the policy decision to waive cost-sharing, instead of deferring it, Congress must be prepared to apply the same policy around the country. For this reason, applying current law to defer the payment of the local cost-share may be a preferable option for managing ability to pay issues following Hurricane Katrina.

Environmental and Public Health Issues

In the short term, rebuilding New Orleans also presents environmental challenges, including water quality, sediments, air quality, oil spills, sediment, and debris removal issues.

To dewater the city, the Corps of Engineers had to discharge flood waters into canals that flow into Lake Pontchartrain. Initial reports of a “toxic soup” may have been overstated. Monitoring data show that the flood water had very high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria, from sewage. EPA recommends people avoid contact with flood water due to this contaminant. Other contaminants, most often lead, were found at levels exceeding EPA drinking water action levels. EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry have concluded that chemicals exceeding drinking water standards or health guidance values do not pose a human health threat because ingestion of flood water should not be occurring unless there is inadvertent ingestion (e.g., from splashing). Although they do not meet Clean Water Act standards, these discharges do not violate the Clean Water Act because they were conducted under the direction of an on-scene coordinator and thus are exempt from Clean Water Act permitting requirements under 40 C.F.R. 122.3. According to the State of Louisiana, the water quality of Lake Pontchartrain has not been adversely affected by these discharges.

Hurricane Katrina also caused several major oil spills, but NOAA and the facility owners have responded to each spill. Information on the impact of these oil spills and Hurricane Katrina generally on the Gulf of Mexico is incomplete. Fish tissue data collected by the NOAA vessel, the Nancy Foster, in the Gulf from Florida to the mouth of the Mississippi between September 12 and September 16, 2005, show no elevated exposure to oil, no E. coli (from sewage), and pesticides and other industrial chemicals only at very low levels that are not likely to be related to hurricane runoff. The EPA vessel, the Bold, is currently in Mississippi analyzing data collected from smaller vessels, but that data is not yet available.

Dewatering the city has left behind a significant amount of sediment. EPA sampling data show petroleum products in the sediment and sometimes arsenic exceeding health guidance values based on ingesting the sediment. The sediment also has some bacterial contamination and EPA recommends avoiding contact with the sediment.

To date, air quality monitoring has not detected any air quality issues having chronic impacts. EPA has detected and responded to some chemical releases, mostly in concentrations below levels of concern.

As noted above, Hurricane Katrina has generated a significant volume of debris. The Corps of Engineers has primary responsibility under the National Response Plan for conducting debris removal, but EPA and the State both have responsibility for ensuring that the disposal is conducted properly. In addition to the debris, 350,000 automobiles must be drained of oil and gasoline and recycled; 1 million tons of refrigerators, washing machines, and other white goods must be recycled; 1,000 underground storage tanks must be secured, 60,000 boats must be staged and possibly destroyed, and millions of tons of household hazardous wastes must be collected and properly disposed.

Finally, it is critical that drinking water and wastewater infrastructure be restored to serve the needs of people who are returning to New Orleans and other hurricane ravaged areas. EPA reports that 67 drinking water systems in Louisiana serving 80,822 people are operating under a boil water advisory. In Mississippi, 64 drinking water systems serving 86,225 people are similarly under a boil water advisory. 121 drinking water systems in Louisiana and 33 systems in Mississippi are not operating.

EPA reports that most municipal wastewater plants in Louisiana (all but 22) and Mississippi (all) are operating. It is unclear whether all operating plants are meeting Clean Water Act standards. At least one plant in New Orleans is operating with primary treatment only. EPA issued an enforcement order to this plant, to allow it to operate until it restores secondary treatment. This plant discharges into the Mississippi River. EPA expects that plant to restore secondary treatment in November, but it will still take two to three months to reach maximum biological treatment efficiency.

OCTOBER 27, 2005


National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies
Mr. Peter D. Rabbon
General Manager
California Reclamation Board
San Francisco, California

Association of State Floodplain Managers, Inc.
Dr. Rodney E. Emmer
Executive Director
Louisiana Floodplain Managers Association
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dr. Gerald E. Galloway
Professor of Engineering
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland

Dr. G. Edward Dickey
Affiliate Professor of Economics
Loyola College in Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland


OCTOBER 20, 2005


Honorable John Paul Woodley, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of the Army
(Civil Works)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Washington, D.C.

Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock
Chief of Engineers
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Washington, D.C.

Honorable Benjamin H. Grumbles
Assistant Administrator for Water
Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C.

Ms. Sidney Coffee
Executive Assistant to the Governor
For Coastal Activities
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dr. William W. Walker
Executive Director
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
Biloxi, Mississippi


Dr. Robert A. Dalrymple
Professor of Civil Engineering
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Denise J. Reed
Professor of the Department of Geology & Geophysics
University of New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana

Mr. Raymond Butler
Executive Director
Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association
Friendswood, Texas

Dr. Roy K. Dokka
Professor of Engineering
Director, Louisiana Spatial Reference Center & Center for GeoInformatics
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Mr. Jan Hoogland
General-Director, Retired
Rijkswaterstaat, North Netherlands
The Netherlands

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