NEW ORLEANS - The government's repairs to New Orleans' hurricane-damaged levees may put the French Quarter in greater danger than it was before Hurricane Katrina, a weakness planners said couldn't be helped, at least for now.
Experts say the stronger levees and flood walls could funnel storm water into the cul-de-sac of the Industrial Canal, only 2 miles from Bourbon Street, and overwhelm the waterway's 12-foot-high concrete flood walls that shield some of the city's most cherished neighborhoods.
The only things separating Creole bungalows and St. Louis Cathedral from a hurricane's storm surge are those barriers, similar in design to the walls that broke during Katrina.
"A system is much like a chain. We have strengthened some of the lengths, and those areas are now better protected," said Robert Bea, a lead investigator of an independent National Science Foundation team that examined Katrina's levee failures.
"When the chain is challenged by high water again, it will break at those weak links, and they are now next to some of the oldest neighborhoods, including the French Quarter, Marigny, and all of those areas west of the cul-de-sac."...
The system, he said, is stronger now, but "it's misinformation to infer that it's an unintended consequence."...
The city's oldest neighborhoods were settled long ago because they were the only dry ground in a wilderness of swamp. When Katrina struck, flooding only reached the outer limit of the French Quarter, creeping into places such as St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the site of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau's tomb.
With their open-air markets, flamboyant artists, baroque churches and carefree lifestyle, the neighborhoods next to the Industrial Canal are some of the city's most prized real estate and give New Orleans its old-world soul.
"If we lose them, gosh, New Orleans would no longer be New Orleans," Chapman said...
True enough, and doubtless pleasing to many unnamed Regent University-trained people in the government.
But if Pat Robertson's Hairy Thunderer fails to smite it anytime soon, can we fix this, please?
Meanwhile I get a comment I'd like to share:
This is total rubbish. Bob Bea is the same "engineer" who tasted the water near the new floodwall in the Lower Ninth Ward and declared it too salty to be an effective storm barrier. The man is a buffoon and the main stream media are just too happy to write these doomsday stories based on Bea's babblings.
Fact: The French Quarter is some of the highest ground in the city. It doesn't matter where the next floodwall failure happens--water flows DOWNHILL. It will flood the same areas of the city again and again.
You raise a good point, one that I considered adding to the original post. Mainly, that the water will flow and accumulate again at the lowest points of the city, which in addition to being lower income also correspond to the more industrial areas. If the waters really can breach at the French Quarter, they will breach there if they are high enough, and flood the city again.
But you're also mistaken.
Salt content in water really does increase its ability to act as a catalytic oxidant (things rust faster).
Secondly, large amounts of water running through the French Quarter could do even more damage than relatively static amounts of water on top of the French Quarter. So if there is a breakdown of the levee system there, they'd get as much damage to the city as if the breach elsewhere, with the added damage of countless metric tons of rushing water flowing downhill from an area that otherwise would be unaffected.
I'd listen really carefully to warnings from an engineer from the National Science Foundation.