Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We Report - You Pull Your Hair Out

On Dec.2 Knucklehead linked this seemingly dispositive piece which convincingly asserted Corps of Engineers design flaws (or contractor chicanery) as the cause for the failure of the flood walls in NO. There was even a clever bit about the LSU investigative team: The corps has long claimed the sheet piling was driven to 17.5 feet deep, but Team Louisiana recently used sophisticated ground sonar to prove it was only 10 feet deep.

Today another piece appears (HT Skookumchuk) which refutes through actual physical evidence the core of the previous piece. Maybe.

Sadder (but in all probability no wiser) I believe that I will withold further speculative comment until a definitive report is published. There are too many axes being ground by both sides at the moment to have much confidence in the reporting.


vnjagvet said...

Welcome to the world of construction defect litigation. Competing "scientific" evidence is often presented by all sides of a dispute.

And there are generally many sides: Owner, designer, general contractor, subcontractor, material suppliers, manufacturers, and the list can go on and on.

This is why many disputes are decided by arbitration, and why the selection of the arbitrator(s) is often the hardest part of the exercise.

The dueling expert reports Rick and Knuck have brought to our attention are just the beginning in my opinion.

Stay tuned.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

The two articles are not entirely in contradiction. The Pensacola one says that the measurements showed that the wall was in fact constructed to spec, i.e., according to the design. The NO article claims that a computer model shows that the design itself was flawed, given the circumstances of this particular location. The Pensacola article in fact mentions the same study:

Louisiana State University computer models showed that even if the pilings had gone to 17.5 feet below sea level as design documents said they should have, they still would have failed because the canal ran deeper and seepage into the ground still could have undermined the flood wall.

Now, the study could be wrong, but the indisputable fact is that the wall failed, and now it appears that it is a fact that the wall was built to spec, so these two facts do tend to indicate that the design was indeed flawed.

Doug said...

Don't miss this sob story for a
32BILLION dollar axe sharpening job.
Boycott the Pink Flamingo!
(Just kidding, Pierre!)
. Pajamas: New York Times gets it right.. .

Knucklehead said...

There seem to two claims here. One is that the design was not robust enough - that even 17.5 feet deep was insufficient. That's a significantly different matter than the other claim that despite the design specs calling for 17.5 feet the sheet piles were only driven to 10 ft.

The 10 ft. claim, if true, would suggest rampant corruption (or an astonishing level of ineptitude) throughout the entire process of construction and maintenance. Personally I'd prefer to believe the design spec was insufficient.

Hopefully time and the liability courts will sort it out.

Knucklehead said...


It may be a bit premature to write off "not built to spec". If I read the Pensacola article correctly this was three sheet piles pulled. Hard to believe the Corps would imagine it could get away with cherry-picking three "to spec" sheet piles, but it is at least remotely possible.

Knucklehead said...


I finally read the PJM/PinkFlamingo piece.

I recently finished reading "A Wilderness So Immense" about the history of the Louisiana Purchase which necessarily gave a great deal of attention to New Orleans.

New Orleans was always a great city - even when it was little more than an collection of huts. An outpost of sorts that thrived quite nicely as a trade port. Other than the slaves who passed through like so much cargo to be bought and sold, the residents - slaves and free alike - often thrived there far better than they would likely have anyplace else. It was a vibrant place.

This has not been true for some long time now. The "vibrance" of pre-Katrina New Orleans was little more than the charade and facade of party-time gone wild.

Cities, like people, have lifespans. Perhaps that of New Orleans has run its course. Perhaps New Orleans needs merely to wither in order to be reborn into something similar to what it once was.

What is it of modern New Orleans so many seem to believe worthy of saving? Did recent New Orleans do justice to its historic past? Can the spirit of New Orleans, the pre-modern version, possibly be recovered if the modern version is left to die?

Is New Orleans really anything other than memories of glory past - a museum?