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New Orleans levee redesign flawed warns UK engineer

CONTRACTORS MIGHT have to rebuild New Orleans' hurricane damaged levees twice, a member of the US government's levee failure research team said last month.

Investigations by the US government's Interagency Perform ce Evaluation Taskforce (IPET) could show that engineers are working to flawed designs, said team member and UK geotechnical engineer Scott Steedman.

He leads the IPET research team, which is using physical modelling to understand what caused the levees to breach during and after Hurricane Katrina last August (GE December 2005).

IPET was set up by US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld in October 2005. It comprises 10 teams of scientists and engineers tasked with examining different factors influencing the levee failures.

About £227M of contracts have already been awarded to firms rebuilding levees and floodwalls.

Work started in the weeks immediately after the hurricane.

US Army Corps engineers and contractors have been working 12 hours a day, seven days a week to get New Orleans' flood defences restored to a pre-Katrina level before the start of this year's hurricane season on 1 June.

But Steedman said this work might have to be redone. 'What happens if the IPET team comes up with some piece of evidence which means that the work they [the US Army Corps of Engineers] have done in the last six months is redundant-' he asked.

'The answer is they will have to bite the bullet and they will redo it. If it comes to it they will immediately carry out additional works or replace what they have already done.'

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