At Last

New Orleans Levees Almost Ready

Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the city, New Orleans’ new protection is almost ready—350 miles of flood walls, gates, linked levees, and pumps ring the city. But many are still skeptical about the $15 billion project, arguing that when it’s completed before hurricane season begins next year, it still won’t offer enough protection from the strongest storms. The Army Corps of Engineers’ system of levees that failed during Katrina have been described as “a system in name only.” The new system is “not even in the same universe,” one engineer says. The levees have a new and far stronger design, and walls as high as 35 feet that would protect from a surge. What is really needed, some scientists say, is the rebuilding of wetlands far beyond the city limits. That flood protector is disappearing at a rate of 24,000 acres a year.