Crime & Safety,
September 18th, 2012
By Katherine Sayre, The Times-Picayune
A flawed shipping project involving excavations at the Industrial Canal allowed Hurricane Katrina’s surge to breach the floodwall in two places, causing massive flooding in the Lower 9th Ward and parts of St. Bernard Parish, an engineer testified Monday in an ongoing federal trial.
Without the construction, the wall would have withstood the storm and prevented the destructive flooding in nearby neighborhoods, said Robert Bea, University of California at Berkeley engineering professor.
Bea, a key witness in the trial over who is blame for the floodwall failures, testified that previous construction along the downriver side of the canal allowed underground water pressure during the storm to essentially lift the walls from underneath, weakening their ability to withstand Katrina’s lateral surge.
“Both breaches occurred crucially because of these uplift pressures,” Bea said during his technical, hours-long testimony today.
Attorneys representing a group of Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish residents claim that Washington Group International Inc., an Army Corps of Engineers contractor, removed several buildings and dozens of pilings from land along the canal as part of a plan to expand the canal’s shipping lock, and then failed to adequately plug the holes left behind. Those holes allowed Katrina’s surge to seep underneath the 14-foot wall, significantly contributing to its failure, they argue.