Army Engineers Working Tirelessly in Gulf Coast Region

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2006 - Since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast a year ago next week, the Army Corps of Engineers has worked tirelessly with federal, state and local officials, industry partners, and thousands of volunteers to repair damage done in the area and prepare for future disasters, the corps' chief said here yesterday.

"Not a day goes by that I do not reflect on the tragic loss of life and property as a result of this devastating storm; and we also, in the Corps of Engineers, recognize how vital it is that we accomplish our missions, to really set the conditions for the full recovery of this area, of the Gulf Coast," Army Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, Army Corps of Engineers commander and chief engineer, said at a White House news conference.

Since September, the Corps of Engineers has restored or repaired 220 miles of the 350 miles of levees in New Orleans, Strock said. The corps also has isolated the three very vulnerable outfall canals that caused many problems during Katrina, and installed interim gated closures and temporary pumping capacity to operate those during a hurricane surge, he said.

All the work the corps has done was with the intent of having the New Orleans levee system back to pre-Katrina standards or better by the start of the hurricane season, June 1, and the corps has been largely successful at that, Strock said.

At the same time the work was going on, the Corps of Engineers has led an effort to find out what exactly occurred after Katrina and why it occurred, so lessons can be applied to long-term planning for the gulf region and the entire country, Strock said. That effort involved more than 150 experts from around the world, and it resulted in a report of about 6,000 pages that will be reviewed by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Research Council, he said.

Congress has asked the Corps of Engineers to form a proposal by December 2007 on what it would take to provide Category 5 hurricane protection for the Louisiana coast, Strock said. While the proposal is being formed, if the corps finds a promising component of the ultimate solution, it will move ahead on those solutions with appropriate funding and authorizations, he said.

"That will be a very long-term process, but I think we have a good plan to get there," he said.

An important lesson Katrina provided is that it is impossible to totally eliminate risk where nature is concerned and that people must heed state and local officials' advice when storms are approaching.

"It's critically important that people understand the risks involved, and we're working very hard to make sure that the people in (the) area understand the residual risks that face them today," he said.

Aug. 29 marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall on the Gulf Coast. In a brief statement after meeting with the St. Bernard Parish president, who lost his home to Katrina, President Bush today said that the anniversary is a time to remember the tragedy, but also to refocus continued reconstruction efforts in the area.

"It's a time to remember that people suffered, and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."

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