By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer
NEW ORLEANS - In New Orleans, the apocalyptic clock is ticking — again. Ravaged last year by one hurricane and slapped by the fringes of another, the city faces a 2006 storm season that begins in less than five months — not much time to repair the tattered ramparts that keep New Orleans from being swallowed by the sea. This year's hurricane season begins June 1. By that date, the U.S. Corps of Engineers expects to have the Crescent City's levees restored to pre-Katrina condition. The job is massive. It will take about 4 million cubic yards of fill — a nearly Superdome-sized pile — to repair the 170 miles of levee destroyed or damaged by Katrina.
"So far we're on schedule and we're doing pretty good," said Col. Lewis Setliff, the leader of the repair effort. There are many who fear that may not be good enough. "This is just a few Band-Aids, really," said Ivor van Heerden, a civil engineer at Louisiana State University. "We really need to go the step further and start implementing projects now that would make New Orleans safe."
Setliff says he understands such concerns. But as commander of Task Force Guardian, his mission is to repair the levees in time for the next hurricane season, and that is what he vows to do. New Orleans will simply have to live through 2006 with roughly the same protection it has had for the past 30 — even though that wasn't enough to fend off Katrina. "Everybody wants a lot of the long-term solutions overnight," Setliff said, but there is neither time nor funding to make major improvements to the barriers by June.
The $1.6 billion repair effort will use some improved construction methods and materials compared to what was in place before, decreasing the chances that levees breached by Katrina will fail again. It will also bring levees that had gradually settled over the years back up to their original height. But it will not raise the height of any levees or replace any sections that survived Katrina intact. - complete article