There appears to be a lack of consensus on an appropriate method for estimating risk and reliability of the hurricane protection system among IPET and groups such as the Corps of Engineers (which is leading the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration [LaCPR] study), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, which is conducting mapping studies that are to include related risk estimate studies), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The hazards of hurricane storm surge and coastal inundation are too important to be addressed with less than the best interagency coordination and scientific methods and knowledge. The IPET should work closely with these agencies to avoid complications that may result from inconsistent methods and results among federal studies and programs, and to avoid confusion in communicating results to the public.
IPET should coordinate its risk and reliability analysis with other relevant programs and agencies, especially the Corps of Engineers LaCPR study, FEMA, and NOAA.
The post-Katrina context of New Orleans hurricane protection is subjecting the IPET investigation to a high level of scrutiny. The IPET is producing a report of keen interest to multiple audiences that include engineers, experts in a broad array of related disciplines (e.g., public policy, history, ecology), elected officials at different administrative levels, the media, and citizens and citizen interest groups. The IPET report not only should be technically sound but it must also provide clear answers to fundamental questions important to a broad audience. In the end it is important that the good efforts of the IPET not be regarded primarily as a technical and inaccessible exercise. Clear statements of the primary IPET outcomes—including uncertainties where they exist—will be of value not only for the public but also for future initiatives, such as the Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Protection program, which will build upon IPET study findings.
The IPET June 1, 2006, Final Draft contains weaknesses in its Executive Summary, geotechnical concepts and analyses, and risk and reliability modeling that will need to be remedied for the document to be both technically credible and a useful guide for citizens and elected officials. Connections between the report’s Executive Summary and the body of the report are often difficult to discern. The IPET’s final report will be strengthened by placing a strong emphasis on ensuring that the Executive Summary reflects clearly the content and main sections of the main body of the report.
The IPET is conducting a study of regional and national importance that will be referenced for years to come. The IPET experts have expended considerable efforts to bring their study to its current point, for which they should be commended. Our NAE/NRC committee offers this report in the spirit of contributing positively to the IPET effort. We look forward to future collaboration with the IPET as we continue our review of their important evaluations of the New Orleans hurricane protection system.