August 25, 2006

New Orleans Needs One Levees Chief, Engineers Say

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans needs a single person responsible for its levee system in order to avoid another Hurricane Katrina-style disaster, the American Society of Civil Engineers said on Friday.

A report by the engineers also recommended that the U.S. Congress establish a system for nationwide levee maintenance, which would be similar to a U.S. system to keep dams safe.

"Put someone in charge," the engineers said, adding that the levee system in New Orleans, built in pieces over four decades, would remain dysfunctional without someone able to solve conflicts and move the reform progress forward.

"There are serious deficiencies in the southeast Louisiana hurricane protection system that must be corrected if the New Orleans area is to avoid a similar catastrophe when the next major hurricane strikes," the report said.

"There are flaws in the way the hurricane protection system was conceived, budgeted, funded, designed, constructed, managed, and operated," it added. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the New Orleans levees, had requested the outside review.

The report criticized previous decisions that were made for financial or environmental reasons and said safety should be the main goal of the levee system.