The rising tide that’s sinking all ships – the flooding of Jefferson Parish following Hurricane Katrina

After SLABBED published the first few posts on Jefferson Parish, I realized I needed a map and when I found a map, the only thing I knew with certainty was that I needed to know more about the Parish before I could understand the map.  Little did I think I’d find a familiar name common to both the flooding following Hurricane Katrina and the unfolding story of corruption in Jefferson Parish – the name, Aaron Broussard.

Flooding on the east bank has been frequently attributed to the decision by parish leadership to deactivate the stormwater pumping systems and evacuate the operators during the storm. Katrina’s substantial storm surge may have swamped even operating pumping stations but Broussard’s activation of the parish’s “Doomsday Plan” is the most frequently cited reason for the flooding in all areas of the east bank except Old Metairie and parts of Harahan.

A “doomsday plan” indeed!  “Water resulting from the backflow through the non-operating pumping stations, as well as storm-related rainwater, remained on the streets and in the homes of residents of Metairie and Kenner for a day and a half…The resulting flooding of Jefferson Parish has been estimated by insurance industry sources at $3 to $5 billion.”

Logically,then, the cost of repairing and/or rebuilding could also be estimate at “$3 to $5 billion”.  However, those billions do not include the cost of building what wasn’t there to be lost – an effective flood control system that would add untold millions more to the estimated cost resulting from the flooding of Jefferson Parish.

The water that flooded Jefferson Parish created a rising tide – lifting the ship of opportunity for contractors, sinking the Parish leadership with related conflicting interests. 

Traditional thinking associates flooding with water without considering the water is full of trash – and even more trash than usual if pump stations are disabled during a flood.  The higher the water and the longer it stands, the greater the damage and amount of trash resulting from the flooding.

Because much of urban Jefferson Parish is below sea level it relies upon forced drainage (pumps) to remove excess water during storm events. A series of pump stations (21 in total…) are located on both the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish. These pump stations collect storm runoff that gathers into the drainage canal network, and discharges the storm water over levees into adjacent water bodies, including Lake Pontchartrain on the east bank and several tidal estuaries on the west bank.

Diesel-powered electric and hydraulic pumps move storm water at each pump station. In order to run the pumps during storm events, operators are needed to remove trash and debris that can clog pump intakes, and monitor the number of operating pumps to remove storm water efficiently.

As I read the USACE report Jefferson Parish Pump Station Stormproofing Activities, Final Environmental Assessment Ea# 454, Churchill came to mind:

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”

History was kind to Aaron Broussard in the report but others did not take his decision to disable the Parish pumping system and order the operators offsite kindly at all. EA#454 states:

Jefferson Parish is responsible for the safety of pump operators during major tropical storm events. Without the appropriate stormproofing measures at manned pump stations, pump station operators must be evacuated to a location that would help ensure for their safety during and immediately following the storm event.

However, the Parish responsibility for the safety of pump station operators is to make provisions for their safety before a major tropical storm event.  This responsibility is established in the regulatory law governing flood control at 33CFR208:10 and includes these and other related requirement:

(3)A reserve supply of materials needed during a flood emergency shall be kept on hand at all times… (10)(2) During flood periods the levee shall be patrolled continuously…Appropriate advance measures will be taken to insure the availability of adequate labor and materials to meet all contingencies…(f)(1)…[and ensure]…Sufficient materials are on hand for the erection of sand bag closures and that the location of such materials will be readily accessible in times of emergency…(v) Adequate supplies of lubricants for all types of machines, fuel for gasoline ordiesel powered equipment, and flashlights or lanterns for lighting shall be kept on hand at all times. Telephone service shall be maintained at pumping plants…(2)Competent operators shall be on duty at pumping plants whenever it appears that necessity for pump operation is imminent… The operator shall be familiar with the equipment manufacturers’ instructions and drawings and with the ‘‘Operating Instructions’’ for each station. The equipment shall be operated in accordance with the abovementioned ‘‘Operating Instructions’’ and care shall be exercised that proper lubrication is being supplied all equipment, and that no overheating, undue vibration or noise is occurring.

When, how and why and related politics-as-usual-implications of Jefferson Parish assuming local control of the pumping system aside,  it was the Parish that had responsibility to operate the system and the concomitant responsibility to be prepared to do so before “the necessity for pump operation is imminent” at the time of Hurricane Katrina.

Although the requirement to 33CFR208.10 require “appropriate advance measures…to insure the availability of adequate labor, there is no regulatory law mentioning, much less mandating, the construction of “safe rooms”.  However, according to EA#454:

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, through the allocation of local funds, Jefferson Parish had started stormproofing by constructing safe rooms at five pump stations. At the time Hurricane Katrina made landfall, those safe rooms were only approximately 35 percent complete. Since Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson Parish has continued with the stormproofing of existing pump stations. By borrowing $40 million, Jefferson Parish has completed some stormproofing activities such as the construction of safe rooms at eight pump stations…and completed some automation projects that allow for mechanical trash and debris removal at pump screens with limited operator intervention and pump operation information feedback…The eight safe rooms funded and constructed by Jefferson Parish are prefabricated buildings placed on foundations immediately adjacent to the pump stations, and provide safe refuge and automated operation capabilities for pump operators during large tropical storm events.

Although EA#454 continues with yet another reference to safe rooms – “safe rooms replace the need to evacuate these pump operators to inland location(s) prior to the landfall of large tropical storm events” – the controlling regulatory law provides no related authority to evacuate pump operators and, in fact, requires a “competent operator” to be “on duty”.

In today’s Jefferson Parish News Miscellany, Sop opined:

…it is clear the current meme that the current state of affairs is mostly Aaron Broussard’s fault remains alive and well though they did mention the Parish council. With few exceptions, given the campaign cash these “evergreen” contractors tossed to the members of the Parish council I have a hard time branding the contractors with the scarlet letter in isolation. Simply put the system would not exist if there weren’t corrupt pols on the other end of the transaction.

In that context, this additional text from my the introductory description of the flooding of Jefferson Parish adds insight on the Parish-funded construction of “safehouses”:

The original “safe-house” project was severely modified due to rising costs and was further delayed due to a conflict of interest revealed by the original contractors. There are also plans to add manual closures on the pumping stations due to the failure of the compressed air systems during Katrina’s storm surge.

Construction projects are held as the engine of economic recovery and stability.  Consequently, it is no surprise that by November 2006, Jefferson Parish was considered a Boom Town “With its population back, its stores bustling and its streets jammed” that could “arguably claim the title of ‘epicenter’ of the local post-Katrina rebound”.

The unfolding story of conflicting interest in Jefferson Parish government suggests it may also be the  ‘epicenter’ of corruption as well as the possibility the two epicenters are related to the flooding of Jefferson Parish following Hurricane Katrina.

Slabbed reports you decide.

19 thoughts on “The rising tide that’s sinking all ships – the flooding of Jefferson Parish following Hurricane Katrina”

  1. A true holy grail of Broussardiana would be his WWL-AM Radio Rwanda like broadcasts.

    Wailing, seccessioninism, paranoia all ran rampant in those crackly radio tyrades. WWl-AM has them somewhere.

    Really glad you came back to this issue.

    As bad as corruption in JP & Orleans has been and as much as there is a human cost to go with the obvious monetary cost, I can think of no other single act of governmental malfeasance with such a cost of economic and real human pain locally as this one.

  2. Those WWL radio interviews were great. He always liked to talk about how he had to deficate in a bag. This kind of lying has a pathological component. The Meet the Press audience seemed to think it was a lot funnier than the late Tim Russert did.

  3. Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster of immense proportions; flooding homes, disrupting a community and $billions of dollars of property loss. But I suggest that HURRICANE WHITMER, the subsequent storm of human corruption in the wake of Katrina, will have a much more chilling effect on Jefferson Parish than we ever could have imagined !

  4. EA’s are required when the environment is changed. Therefore the construction of safe houses needed to be addressed for all pump station in both Jefferson, Orleans, St Bernard and any other that were to provide a safe working environment for pump operators as per 33 CFR 208.10.

    Pump Staion Design is addressed in DA Engineering Regulations & Manuals at the Direction of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, just as the above law is.

    The requirements in those regulations cover construction, repair, maintenance, modification and replacement. Since the operators were required to be on duty the pump station should have provided for that as well as meeting all other requirements.

    Air Pressure for a cut-off is only good if someone is their to observe the pressure and if necesary increase it if necessary during the immenant danger. To me a safe house is a modification and accetable way to provide for the operators. However, that requirement should have been met when the pump stations were placed in a Federal Project to be operated by the Local Sponsoer. not some 40 years later in some cases. The same applies to the ones in Orleans and St Bernard Parishes.

    Parties on both sides of this playing field elected to ignore this requirement along with many more and finally the day of recogning came!

    Much more can be discused but this is enough for a taste of the Gumbo Malfeasence!

  5. Yes Mr Broussard and all past Parish Presidents & Councils are implicent in malfeasence since the mid 1950’s as they as Local Sponsorsshould have been aeare of this 33 CFR 208.10 law. However, just as implicent are all Commanders of the COE from that time forward, as it is their duty to also know this and have documentation that they were made aware of this law. More malfeasence and buddy/buddy meetings may have been what the outcome was.

    Now if anyone reads 33 CFR 208.10, they will find that it is a requirement to monitor the canals used for removing waters from the protected areas as a minimum of annually, but more correctly after any major rain event that taxes their ability to move the waters through them and the pump stations.

    For Jefferson Parish and some in Orleans & St Bernard Parish that goes back to the start of the LP&VHPP, some 30 to 50 years. Further the major outfall canals were not put into that Federal Project as they exist until late 1988.

    Unfortunately the Locals and public view things differently from the COE. They placed St Charles, East Jefferson and a portion of Orleans all into wht they designate as the New Orleans West Unit. Check their project and the documents from the MRGO litigation. How the Judge ruled that the problems in Jefferson could not be addressed due to backflow, and the outfall canals due to levee failure shows that he lacks the engineering knowledge to say the Federal Government & Local Sponsors are immune.

    Levee failure as covered in the 1928 law does not hold for this local flood project,33 CFR 208.10 does. No law should protect any party involved in malfeasence.

    Malfease, can it be proven? Yes neither party complyed with the 33 CFR 208.10 requirements and the COE made what they even began to call drive by Annual Inpections of the Project. A few samples of some letters directed to the Local Sponsor was a letter in 1970 citing problems with the pump station along Lake Pontchartrain in East Jefferson which as the law states must be complied with immediatly. Guess what folks that letter has never been addressed as of this date.

    Annual inspection by the COE as required, even though drive-by did report other problems at times, but again they were never complied with in many cases not until this day.

    Then the best known outfall canal posibly in all of America, the 17th St Canal. In 1988 permission was given to dredge the canal. East Jefferson said no not my side. In a letter from the COE in that same year the Local Sponsor of the Orleans portion of the NOW Unit the OLD and the S&WB were told that the COE anticipated erosion on the Orleans side of the canal bank. The one recently dredge to increase flow and movement of water. The COE required that as a minimum they should monitor the canal with hydrographic surveys to monitor that canal for erosion and if any were found they were to repair the area immediately at their expense!! Further they were to forward the data to the COE so they could used the data to monitor any problem with the SCL [stability control line] as like in dominoes, if the bank fails, the leveee fails and the floodwall fails.

    Strange thing no one at the COE knew of the requirement or had the data and no one at the OLD hadn’t preformed any surveys for that purpose. That is malfeasence by both parties.

    This area flooded for no one following or applying the proper law to this project, 33 CFR 208.10.

    We drowned, lost property and income and they all got a free pass.
    We are the greatess patsies in the world and we don’t seem to care.
    So, yes Aaron sent the operators away, but the COE didn’t enforce their law and policies so both should be made to pay and be held responsible for their malfeasence. No individual of either the Local Sponor or the COE was ever punished for malfeasence.

  6. If you liked that, here is a little more for you. A flood control project is to be designed by the COE in its entirity, or they may elect to use existing structures & levees to build upon. For the portion in [NOW Unit] East Jefferson & Orleans Parish were to constructed differently. The COE used what was there [pump station & levee] in EJ as they stood without a very good inspection, but in 1970 they did write to the EJ Local Sponsor and told them that gated barriers were required in front of their pump stations. To this date that modification has never been constructed, over 40 yrs of malfeasence on both the LS & COE. 33 CFR 208.10 requires the pump station be safe for the operators, but a safe house is acceptable. Positive cut-offs are required in all discharge pipelines, but that was never mentioned or modified. Working floor elevation was to be such that the operators had a dry work area or the station had to be sealed so no flood waters could get in. This comes from the HPDC Draft Report reference 19791113 and 33 CFR 208.10.

    If you want to know more about pump stations go to the DA site for Engineering Manuals & Regulations and locate EM 1110-2-3102 it is current but it replaces the 1962 version.

    The pump stations as they existed did not meet Federal Guides! Further when the Barrier Plan was dropped & the High Level Plan was finally approved they did the same thing again with the pump stations in Orleans Parish, and the same problems existed.

    The bonfire is just getting started on corruption and malfeasence. Still need to know how the Judge ruled that EJ couldn’t sue but heard the Orleans Outfall Suit and ruled against the citizens there without addressing 33 CFR 208.10? Why ws the NOW Unit split? The NOE Unit also was not addressed, but the Chalmette Unit was and guess what they are on either leg of the Golden Triangle and if you review the MRGO litigation maps you will notice almost as much damage on the Citrus Back Levee in NOE as there is on the Chalmette Levee Extension in St Bernard Parish. A very slippery slope of decissions all pertaining to a local flood control project.

  7. It seems that only if 33 CFR 208.10 applied to East Jefferson and Aaron. However, it applies to all local flood control projects in this state. Think outside of the box!!!!!!

    It seems as if it only applies to those in the news for corruption. SORRY!! It applies to everything KATRINA and the judgements made!!!!!!!

  8. Now come on Guys maybe you all need to look at this the other way. How much money would be made off of rebuilding and insurance payouts and under the table contracts.

    Lets not be oblivious to the fact that unlike New Orleans – The majority of Jefferson parish had people who paid insurance and worked full-time. These are the same people who spent billion’s of dollars quickly returning and rebuilding.

    Letting things flood just meant more money in the Corrupt few’s pockets – Because any good government will raise taxes to help people pay for damage in a Natural Disaster!

    Aaron and company figured they had now downside – Come off as trying to save the live of Government employees and if/when floods occurred profit from reconstruction!

  9. Nowdy, one day by hook or crook I will get you that Doomsday Plan.

    Like y’all I could use an extra clock in the day.

  10. Let’s assume that a “Doomsday Plan” actually exists (I aver that it does NOT exist, and if it did exist it was inapplicable to KATRINA which was only a Category 2 by the time it reached Jefferson Parish). Ashton O’Dwyer.

  11. I do believe Aaron should have been committed to a mental institution shortly after he attempted to get a neighbors kite off of electrical wires and was electrocuted in kenner. A friend was his attending nurse and thinks he sustained brain damage. Just that action proves he lacked common sense judgment in times of emergency. Instead a political Frankenstein with multiple personalities was created which has just about destroyed the parish.

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