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The Levee Officials Video

To my left, where you see white rock, is where the levee failed in 2008.

The river blew a hole about 50 feet deep and about 175 feet wide that now has been filled in by white rock.

The force of that caused water to rush for about two miles into the area that's immediately in front of me.

STOWE: Levees will fail.

They have failed in this community.

Even though we've made significant improvements, they will fail in the future.

I liken living behind a levee to somebody handing me a bullet-proof vest.

That's an indication to me that there is a significant risk about what I'm about to enter into.

Things are going to flood, period.

They're going to flood.

A levee will -- may protect you a little bit, but it'll give you a false sense of security.

MAN: We lived here for, oh, the better part of about 20, 25 years.

When Katrina came, in fact, I had about 18 months left on my mortgage.

And it got washed away.

That levee is a physical barrier between people and water that can kill them or destroy their property.

It is not an assurance that they will always be protected.

In fact, it's really a reminder that they're at risk.

It's just, you know, part of human nature to want to be near the water, whether it be for recreational reasons or because, you know, we get our drinking water there or for commerce or transportation or -- there's just a myriad of reasons why we like to live there.

STOWE: Des Moines is a river city.

We market ourselves as a river city.

We have continued economic development and continued residential relocation along our rivers.

The downside of that is, levees are absolutely critical to separate that surface water from the residence.

TURNER: New Orleans is kind of a unique place.

We live here in the delta.

As time went by, more and more businesses moved in, which attracted more people.

The levees, which protected from most floods, even attracted more people.


You know, we had developed a large portion of the city outside of the high ground.

We had surrounded ourselves with levees.

And we had Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which kind of showed us that, hey, we still had some problems associated with flood defenses.

We just can't build a system that eliminates all flooding risks.

And the system that we're building around the city of New Orleans is really only designed for a 100-year storm surge.

So Mother Nature can always produce a much greater storm.

We've seen a significant amount of personal property damage in the last three floods.

1993 and 2008 and 2010, literally tens of millions of dollars for each of those events.

We had been told for years that in a major event, we were subject to flooding.

But it's hard for us to imagine what that might be like in our minds, particularly when you think that an entire community of 60,000 people where every single structure was flooded.

If I live behind a levee, it tells me it was built for a purpose, and there's probably a probability of flooding in that area specifically.

So, once you've understood that, then you begin to do those things that can mitigate those damages.

Are you going to acquire properties and make them into green space?

Are you going to protect properties, are you going to build structures and create building codes that make structures stronger or allow water to move through the structure, rather than thoroughly inundating and destroying it?

There's a lot to do there.

Then really inform your citizens about what's at risk.

Encourage them to take those protective measures, and that includes buying flood insurance.

Have a plan, you know, to make sure that -- flood goes away, you have a way to come back and rebuild your life.

Katrina was a big wake-up call.

You know, we're seeing other places in the country where people are sitting up and taking notice.

To effectively deal with levee issues, you have to know some important things.

Some of those things include, "Where are the levees?"

"What is the condition that they're in?"

And "Who is responsible for operating and maintaining those levees?"

You know, there's been a lot of thinking outside of the box when it has come to planning and designing the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System for the city of New Orleans and the surrounding area.

We really want to look at how we build into the future and what that means, long term.

Communities who think that they may be able to go out and add some additional clay on top of the earthen embankment and avoid the risk -- it isn't quite that simple.

The more difficult issue is how you really assess that risk and build the standards that will provide the greatest amount of protection.

This is very unique in the history of the Corps of Engineers.

What we really are doing is building basically a 120-mile wall around the city of New Orleans.

The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal is the area that just took the brunt of the hurricane storm surge from Katrina.

A storm surge pushed from the Gulf of Mexico into Lake Borgne, which is right behind us here, and then on up into the heart of the city.

What we wanted to do when this new reconfiguration of the entire system is five storm surge at the perimeter.

And the storm surge during Katrina was about 18 feet in elevation at this location with about 7 foot of waves on top of that.

So this structure here would handle that kind of surge and those kind of waves.

We could have done what we did without the support from all the federal and state and local government organizations and numerous non-governmental organizations.

I think it's really a model on how the interagency team can come together, cerate something better than what existed prior to Katrina, and do it in a very short period of time.

We all have a role to play when we look at emergency management overall.

What we say is, "It takes a community."

There is this whole of community concept that's out there, and when we've begun to look at it, we understand that it's a partnership between citizens, their public officials, and businesses, as they work to protect their communities, and they understand the effects they may have up and downstream.

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