The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has begun publicly releasing performance data about New Orleans’ hurricane and storm protection system, damaged during Hurricane Katrina, and has also been given full federal funding to rebuild the structure.

The USACE Chief of Engineers has commissioned an Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) to perform an evaluation to find out what happened to the protection system from an engineering perspective. The data will be used to help to ensure optimum designs for its reconstruction and for future projects. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is supporting with an external review panel, which will provide an independent oversight of the IPET evaluation.

IPET is gathering data and will perform the analysis. The data released will include design memorandums dating back to the 1960s, and the associated reports for the Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana and Vicinity High Level plan, which includes 17th Street and London Avenue outfall canals. This information includes the project plan, hydrology and hydraulics, geology, foundation investigation and design (including the field exploration, soil borings, and laboratory testing) and the structural design.

IPET will use collected data, laboratory testing, and modelling activities in its analysis. Its final report will be released in June 2006. However, any important findings will be continually shared with those undertaking the New Orleans levee and floodwall reconstruction work.

The Secretary of Defence has also directed the Secretary of the Army through the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to convene an independent panel of national experts under the direction of the National Academies to perform a high-level review and issue findings based on the IPET, ASCE panel and other data. This panel will release its report in July 2006.

Eventually, all releasable documentation from the New Orleans protection system will be available on the USACE web site. The current releasable data will be posted on a publicly accessible web site: Additional data will be added as it becomes available.

USACE has also announced that rebuilding the New Orleans levees will move forward at full federal expense, due to a recent decision from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. The restoration will be accomplished under the emergency authority of Public Law 84-99 (33 U.S.C. 701n) and will provide for the coordinated restoration of the hurricane, flood and storm damage reduction projects to pre-storm conditions.

‘In light of the devastation to the city of New Orleans, this decision will relieve the burden from the local sponsors of providing funding and will allow us to move expeditiously toward restoring pre-storm level of protection,’ said John Paul Woodley Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

Under normal cost sharing, non-Federal sponsors, who in this case are the levee boards for each parish, would be required to pay a total of approximately US$249M to repair these facilities. Because of the unprecedented damage and impacts to local governments, the repairs will be entirely funded by the Federal government under the USACE emergency response authority.