NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The temporary pumps are now being pulled out as a new permanent pumping station comes online at the 17th street canal. The Feds have paid $14 billion to improve the city's levee defenses since Katrina but there are concerns about new levees, and subsidence.
The city's levee defense system, is visibly higher stronger and wider, but a recent reports says many are already showing signs of sinkage, and local leaders are concerned.
"Subsidence is an issue, it's made us more vulnerable," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
“If subsidence is going to be a problem, that’s something we want to know sooner rather than later, so it can get back up to that 100 year level, which is what the corps was obligated to deliver,” said governor John Bel Edwards.
The mayor, governor, and others Thursday toured one of the new lynch pins of the city’s flood defense system...the permanent pumping station at the outfall of the 17th street canal, a station now ready to do it’s duty, as the old temporary station comes down.
“This system is the most advanced in the nation,” said Col. Stephen Murphy.
He’s the Army Corps of Engineers new district commander. Just two days on the job, Murphy now supervises a massive district, that includes more than 200 miles of mostly new levees, and more than 300 floodgates.
"The system's ready, and it's better than it's ever been," said Murphy.
And he says the corps is now studying the issue of subsidence, which could bring levees, beneath the 100 year storm standard, in just four years, according to a recent story on Scientific American.com.
"I know we're looking at it now." Murphy said.
But if the study shows more work needs to be done...that's another issue.
“The intent is to determine, what is the federal interest, is it economically viable for the federal government pay to do the regular maintenance,” said Murphy.
The eight pumps are monsters capable of pumping out a combined 2700 cubic feet of water every second...that’s one Olympic size swimming pools worth of water, every seven seconds, according to the corps.
“Thanks to his pump station and two others like it, 24000 cfs of water can be extracted from the city,” said Gov. Edwards.
But the long term strength of a levee system designed to keep storm surge out, remains a concern, as the mayor of a vulnerable city now waits to determine the extent of the problem.
"I think the study is needed. subsidence is an issue, it's made us more vulnerable," said Cantrell.
"I think it's too early now to be panicked, as we start this hurricane season that they're the strongest they've ever been," said Edwards.
Edwards is asking everyone to make a plan for storm evacuation now.
The state has several links on how to prepare. They are getagameplan.org. an app is also available.