Levees.org’s Public Letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Levees.org’s position: When a New Orleans newspaper discusses the 2005 breach of the 17th Street or London Avenue Canal, the story should indicate that design flaw caused the breach. Here’s why:

1. The design flaws were egregious and uncontested,
2. The resulting breaches caused $27 billion in damage and hundreds of deaths,
3. Dozens of changes to national policy were passed by Congress in response, and
4. People outside the city refer to the T-P as an authoritative source on the catastrophic breach event.

The corps-sponsored levee investigation (IPET) even admits to the design flaws.

But, on May 27 and again on September 21, the New Orleans Times-Picayune did not indicate the existence of design flaw in their stories which discussed the breaches.

After both stories, Levees.org brought its concerns to the T-P editors. Our first letter was ignored. Our second letter – sent with a cover letter from our attorney – received this reply:

“The cause of the 17th Street Canal levee breach has been reported extensively (and accurately) in our pages for years and will continue to be. Sandy’s input is always appreciated.” ~Mark Lorando, Times-Picayune news editor

Levees.org was not satisfied with the response.

So, we mobilized our membership to ask the T-P news editors to discontinue a practice which tends to protect the Army Corps of Engineers. Over 300 people have joined Levees.org’s campaign.

If you haven’t joined yet, click here: https://go.levees.org/TP

In the opinion of Professor Vickie Mayer at Tulane University:
The role of any community newspaper is to provide the historical context of news events so that citizens can make good choices in the future. Levees are human-made structures. Understanding the role of their flawed design in shaping the past, we may hope for a safer and more aware future.
Vicki Mayer is Professor of Communication and Media at Tulane University in New Orleans Louisiana, where she holds the Louise K. Riggio Chair for Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Anthony Bertucci calls in the status of the floodwall at London Avenue Canal’s upper breach near Robert E. Lee Boulevard. Bertucci is from New Orleans District’s Construction Division.

Others have also joined in Levees.org’s campaign urging the Times-Picayune to stop giving the corps a free pass which is dangerous to the 55% of the American population living in counties protected by levees.

Rudy Vorkapic, journalist and founder of The New Orleans Levee newspaper
The Corps of Engineers should be mentioned in every news story that mentions the outfall canal floodwall failures because it’s key to the history and the future. I ran a satirical newspaper and I NEVER failed to include that information in any such story and we obviously wrote a ton.

Harry Shearer, producer, director and part time resident of New Orleans.
I’m sure it comes as no news to you that the biggest story in New Orleans this century (so far) was the 2005 flood and aftermath. It should also come as no news to you that, while the T-P, chief among other local media, did an excellent job of following the story in the weeks and months that two investigations were reporting evidence of how and why the flood happened, national media stood pat with their first-draft version–humongous storm, city below sea level, mainly poor black victims. Here we are, all this time later, and the national version remains what most Americans think they know about the event they call Katrina. I made a full-length documentary about the investigations, featuring a whistleblower from inside the Corps of Engineers, in an attempt to change that situation. It didn’t work. So it pains me to see the new, reworked T-P joining the national chorus of mischaracterizing this event as a meteorological disaster, rather than, as the co-leader of the UC Berkeley investigation characterized it, “the greatest man-made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl.” People outside the city will refer to the T-P as an authoritative source on this subject. Please don’t feed their ignorance.

Sheet piling remain connected at the Industrial Canal. Photo/Roy Arrigo

Norman Robinson, journalist and television news anchor at WDSU-TV Channel 6 until recent retirement:
Ignoring the obvious is tantamount to willful ignorance. That is the kind of, sticking your head in the sand, thinking that led to the failure of the Levees in the first place.

Keith Twitchell, President Committee for a Better New Orleans
If we are to have a safe city in the future, we have to know what the threats are to our safety, and what causes them. The Times-Picayune has a duty to report the complete facts about the August 2005 levee breaches and their causes.

If you haven’t yet, please add your name to Levees.org’s public letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Click here: https://go.levees.org/TP

The Army Corps of Engineers admission of design flaw in the flood walls can be seen on page I-119 of the corps-sponsored IPET report here.

The Times-Picayune September 21 story can be seen here.

The Times-Picayune May 27 story can be seen here.

Levees.org’s Sept 28 letter to Mark Lorando asking the Times-Picayune to provide details about design flaw when discussing the 17th Street Canal can be seen here.

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Citizen comments on Levees.org’s campaign to contact the Times-Picayune

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Anthony Bertucci calls in the status of the floodwall at London Avenue Canal’s upper breach near Robert E. Lee Boulevard. Bertucci is from New Orleans District’s Construction Division.

Levees.org is waging a campaign urging the news editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune to include the words “design flaw” whenever discussing the breaches of the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals in their stories.

As of 8:00 a.m. on Tue Oct 9, 2018, over 300 individuals have signed Levees.org’s petition. If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition: https://go.levees.org/TP

Many have included thoughtful – and often heart-wrenching – comments in addition to their signature. See below for just a few.


Strongly agree with Levee’s.Org that omitting that the failure was due to design flaw “… would cause any reasonable reader to think storm surge is to blame.” New Orleans, LA

No entity can undo the fact that led to my mother’s death and btw, should be on the conscience of the Army Corp of Engineers. Colorado Springs, CO

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Levees.org mobilizes its membership to contact the New Orleans Times-Picayune

After twice requesting the news editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune to stop protecting the Army Corps of Engineers, the leadership of Levees.org has mobilized its membership.

Today, Levees.org has invited its national membership to call upon the news editors of the Times-Picayune to cease omitting the reason that the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals failed in August of 2005.

When discussing the failure of the two canals, the Times-Picayune consistently refrains from stating that the devastating breaches were caused by engineering design mistakes on the part of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Omitting what caused the outfall canals to fail protects the Army Corps of Engineers. It dishonors those who survived the levee breaches and those who did not. And it’s dangerous for anyone living by federally built levees.

Please sign Levees.org’s petition: https://go.levees.org/TP

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