New Orleans — Government engineers performing sonar tests at the site of a major levee failure confirmed that steel reinforcements barely went more than half as deep as they were supposed to, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Wednesday.
"We've come up with similar results" to those from earlier tests performed by Louisiana State University engineers, said Walter Baumy, the Corps' chief engineer for the New Orleans District.
Baumy said the Corps intends to pull out pieces of the remaining wall along each edge of the breach at the 17th Street Canal to verify the sonar test results.
Baumy said the Corps cannot explain the disparity between what its 1993 design documents show was supposed to be there and what they've found.
The documents indicated that the steel reinforcements in the levee, known as sheet piling, went to a depth of 17.5 feet below sea level. Sonar tests indicated the pilings went only to 10 feet below sea level, meaning the flood wall would have been much weaker than intended.
The LSU team is working on a report for the state that will say there were serious design and construction flaws at the 17th Street and London Avenue canals. Both broke during Hurricane Katrina.