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Scientists have warning about fault lines and flood protection

Experts say there are fault lines across New Orleans East and at least three active faults beneath Lake Pontchartrain. (FOX 8 Photo) Experts say there are fault lines across New Orleans East and at least three active faults beneath Lake Pontchartrain. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

A local geologist says fault lines crisscrossing Southeast Louisiana could be a major factor in the rapid subsidence rate.

Chris McClindon says those cracks in the earth should be considered as we build millions of dollars of levees and new wetlands.

"Just getting this out to the public is the most important thing we can do right now," McClindon said. "These are some of the best scientists in the field coming up with these conclusions."

McClindon presented his findings to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East, urging its members to consider fault lines in the planning of levees. He says fault lines under the levees in New Orleans coincide with some of the main levee breaks during Katrina.

"The data that we were interpreting, we interpret faults, and many of them extended to the surface," McClindon said.

It's a huge problem, and the experts say a fault line near Bayou Bienvenue may have contributed to a subsidence rate of about 5 feet since 1930.

Experts say there are fault lines across New Orleans East and at least three active faults beneath Lake Pontchartrain.

"On Highway 11, there's a kink in the bridge," McClindon said. "That's a fault. If you think about that in an area under a levee or trying to grow land, you may not want to build land on top of that."

"There's also another fault that crosses the Causeway, and it's visible on the Causeway Bridge," said John Lopez with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

And while some say faults are a major culprit, they have a warning about other factors contributing to a sinking Louisiana.

"My belief is it's a component to the land loss problem. We have many other components -  canals, agriculture impairments," said Lopez, who adds that fault lines are being factored in to  wetland preservation.

"The state is accounting for that in the master planning process, but when it comes to faults, there's still much to learn," Lopez said.

And local geologists say the more information we gather, the better we can try and save what's left.

Lopez says subsidence is one thing; sea level rise is another. And he says both are contributing to huge challenges in efforts to keep much of Southeast Louisiana above water.

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