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US sets up levee monitoring system

PRESSURE FROM American engineers has prompted the United States to propose a system to monitor the condition of levees following Hurricane Katrina last August.

A bill establishing a National Levee Inspection programme was introduced to Congress before Christmas. If approved it will allocate $10M (£5.7M) a year for levee inspection, although it does not set aside funds for repairs or upgrades.

Brian Pallasch, director of government relations at the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE), advised politicians on the contents of the bill. He said the US Government had no idea how many levees there were are in the country or what condition they were in.

'This piece of legislation is to encourage states to create their own levee programmes. Once they have done this, then they can apply to Congress to make funds available to fix their levees, ' Pallasch said.

The bill was first recommended in the ASCE's damning report on flood defence failures in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The report claimed poor design and construction of levees aggravated flooding of the city (GE December 2005).

While the federal government cannot force each state to draw up its own levee safety programme, Pallasch said he was confident states would cooperate with the federal government, especially as it would 'dangle the carrot of additional funds'.

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