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American Forces Press Service

Top Army Engineer Reports on 'Dewatering' of New Orleans

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2005 The Army's senior engineer described ongoing efforts to "dewater" New Orleans following hurricanes Katrina and Rita during a Sept. 28 House subcommittee hearing here.

Hurricane Rita's storm surge defeated the city's levee system Sept. 23 and reflooded areas that had been submerged and then pumped dry following Hurricane Katrina, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, Army chief of engineers, reported to members of a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee.

However, water levels in a key navigation canal near downtown New Orleans "have dropped by more than five feet" in recent days, the general said.

"We are once again pumping the water out of the 9th Ward and the St. Bernard Parish," Strock said. About 2,900 Corps of Engineers employees are deployed in New Orleans, he noted, with some engineers tasked to repair damaged levees.

Strock said water-quality levels are being monitored during pumping operations that "will remove most, if not all, of the water" from currently submerged sections of New Orleans. Any residual water shouldn't impact on debris removal and other recovery operations, he said.

The Mississippi River is now open for navigation, the general also said. Traffic on one section of the river near where it enters the Gulf is only permitted during daylight hours as missing or storm-damaged buoys are being replaced, he said. Other work is being conducted to evaluate and reopen other area waterways, he added.

Strock also said the engineers are implementing plans to reopen their New Orleans district office, which had been closed due to the recent storms.

The engineers are supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency efforts in New Orleans by providing debris removal, ice, water, and temporary power assistance, as well as temporary roofing and technical expertise for housing needs, Strock said.

He estimated Corps of Engineers costs for support of hurricane-related FEMA projects in New Orleans now amount to about $3 billion.

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