Wizbang points to a series of articles in the New Orleans Times-Picayune full of apparently damning evidence that New Orleans' canal levees were built completely below standard by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state's forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they "could not fathom" how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history. ...

"It's simply beyond me," said Billy Prochaska, a consulting engineer in the forensic group known as Team Louisiana. "This wasn't a complicated problem. This is something the corps, Eustis, and Modjeski and Masters do all the time. Yet everyone missed it -- everyone from the local offices all the way up to Washington."

Perhaps most incriminating, the forensic group did their own calculations, using data from the Army Corps of Engineers, and came to the right conclusions.

"Using the data we have available from the corps, we did our own calculations on how much water that design could take in these soils before failure," said LSU professor Ivor van Heerden, a team member. "Our research shows it would fail at water levels between 11 and 12 feet -- which is just what happened" in Katrina.

As Paul at Wizbang points out, there are a slew of journalism awards just waiting to be handed out, but the MSM doesn't appear interested in covering the story. The Army Corps of Engineers is part of the federal government, but these levees were desgined and built long before President Bush was in office so the media may not see much point in attacking... especially since all the local government officials are Democrats.... But really, is this a political failure at all, or just plain incompetence? Hopefully we find out.

"This is the largest civil engineering disaster in the history of the United States. Nothing has come close to the $300 billion in damages and half-million people out of their homes and the lives lost," he said. "Nothing this big has ever happened before in civil engineering."

(HT: Ben Bateman.)

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This was not some natural disaster, but the colossal failure of an engineering system that competent oversight should have caught before it was too late. Did anyone not bother to check to make sure that the piles were properly driven to the correct d... Read More

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