These structures have been funded, constructed, and maintained for over 100 years by a combination of federal, state, and local water management entities. The IPET issued interim reports on January 10, 2006, and March 10, 2006 (https://ipet.wes.army.mil/), which represent progress at roughly the 30 percent and 70 percent stages, respectively, of IPET study completion.
In November 2005, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works John Paul Woodley requested the National Academies to convene a committee of experts to provide an independent review of the IPET studies. The Committee on New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects was appointed in December 2005 under the auspices of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Research Council (NRC). (Appendixes A and B contain the committee’s statement of task and its membership, respectively. Appendix C lists the external reviewers of this report). This letter report from the committee, the second in a series, evaluates the information presented in the IPET’s March 10, 2006, report (or “IPET second report”) and identifies issues related to progress toward the IPET study objectives. The report is based on the committee’s review of the IPET second report, supplemented with information exchanged with IPET team members at a March 20, 2006, meeting in New Orleans.
The IPET has made progress on several fronts and deserves credit for these advances, especially given the constraints and pressures under which IPET members are working. Nevertheless, a significant amount of work remains to be done if a credible, systemwide view of the impacts to the hurricane protection system, its current status and vulnerabilities, and levels of future risk is to be produced.
The IPET second report is several hundred pages long and contains copious amounts of technical information. Although data-intensive and detailed studies are essential for a large-scale investigation like the IPET, the second report (which is essentially a data report) lacks integration and clarity. Introductory sections describe a set of objectives that are appropriate and useful; however, they do not explain clearly a systematic approach to the study, making it difficult to understand how subsequent chapters relate to one another and are to form a single, coherent document. Transitions between the chapters are not well explained, and individual chapters read primarily as stand-alone components that have little or no relation with other chapters in the report. These points are not merely cosmetic; they are of critical, material importance. A clearly written and well-organized report will be essential to communicate IPET findings to local, state, and federal officials, and others who will conduct long-range planning for a reconstituted hurricane protection system.
A primary concern with the IPET second report is the lack of a clear, systemwide picture of the New Orleans hurricane protection system (HPS) in terms of the five IPET study objectives. Specifically, the second report lacks a systemwide assessment of pre-Katrina design criteria and status, description of impacts on the system during and after the storm, societal consequences of Katrina-related damage, post-Katrina levels of vulnerability, and future levels of risk to the New Orleans region. A simple example is the need for clear statements that explain that the origins for hurricane protection system