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Corps Hand Over Control to Local Levee Authorities – First Time Since Katrina

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Only two weeks to go, before the start of hurricane season and this year, for the first time since Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers is handing off control of the levee system to locals.

Before Katrina there were a half dozen levee boards, each controlling flood protection in small, limited areas. Those boards were famous for cronyism, in some cases, for taking care of every other kind of business except flood control.

Today, times have changed.

After Katrina laid waste to most of New Orleans, the governor disbanded all local levee boards, and created two large flood control authorities; one to cover all levees on the east bank, from St. Bernard Parish to the river parishes, the other to cover the West Bank.

Those authorities have largely sat on the sidelines while the Army Corps of Engineers rebuilt the area’s dysfunctional levee system.

Now that it’s nearly complete, the corps handed back control of the levees to the locals, just as hurricane season 2014 is about to begin.

Tim Doody, head of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, says his staff is up to speed and ready to go, especially when it comes to handling the closure of the massive flood gates the feds have recently built, like this one designed to block storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain flowing into the industrial canal.

But even with the billion-plus dollars the feds have spent on rebuilding the system, Doody warns the system is designed to protect infrastructure, not people.

“If the call comes, it’s not designed to prevent any flood. It’s designed to reduce risk. The corps, in their words, said it was a system in name only before Katrina. We truly have a system now,” Doody explained.

By the way, the first storm of the upcoming season will be named, Arthur. The second, Bertha.