Levees.org is devoted to educating America on the facts associated with the 2005 catastrophic flooding of the New Orleans region.
The work of Levees.org is critical because after the levees failed, over 100,000 families were displaced from their support base and could not collectively confront the myths and misinformation that dominated the media after the flooding.
The catastrophic flooding of metro New Orleans was due to the failure of the levees and floodwalls which should have performed, and also to the manmade destruction of protective forests and wetlands in south Louisiana which had historically performed as storm surge buffers.
Primary responsibility for the failure of the levees and floodwalls lies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers according to the US District Court of Eastern Louisiana and according to the federally authorized Hurricane Protection Decision Chronology, both released in 2008.
Responsibility for the destruction of south Louisiana’s wetlands is a shared one. Protective cypress groves and wetlands were ravaged in the past 50 years when canals were dredged for shipping and for oil and gas exploration. Meanwhile, the leveeing and weiring of the Mississippi River over the past 150 years by the U.S. government to benefit navigation has starved south Louisiana’s wetlands of nourishing silt leading to their progressive loss.
And so in October 2005, with a mission of education, Levees.org was founded by Sandy Rosenthal and her son Stanford, then 48 and 15 while exiled in Lafayette, Louisiana.
With 55% of the American people living in counties protected by levees, it’s important that Americans living outside the New Orleans region understand what really happened in south Louisiana during Katrina.
Utilizing online letter campaigns, lobbying and ‘call-in’ days, Levees.org has pushed for federal legislation to prevent a repeat of what happened on August 29, 2005. Levees.org was critical in garnering US Senator Mary Landrieu’s support for the McCain/Feingold Corps Reform Amendments to the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.
Levees.org was highly instrumental in the August 2006 passage of the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, S. 3711 giving Louisiana its fair share of revenues from royalties from offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
In February 2007, after Senator Landrieu pledged her support, Levees.org launched its campaign demanding the 8/29 Investigation Act, a truly independent review of the flood protection failures – and the decision-making that led to those failures – during Katrina. Levees.org wrote the legislation with bipartisan input from Senator Landrieu and Senator David Vitter. Levees.org succeeded in getting a bill filed in both the US House and Senate in 2009, but failed to get enough national support that year. Backed by broad local support, Levees.org continues to demand the 8/29 Investigation Act.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS
Levees.org has recruited celebrities and local citizens to be spokespersons in Public Service Announcements (PSAs). In 2007, two PSAs were released featuring actor John Goodman (cast of Roseanne) and also actor/producer Harry Shearer (voice of the Simpsons). In 2008, Levees.org released two more PSA’s featuring local residents urging viewers to support the 8/29 Investigation Act. The commercials can be be seen at Levees.org’s YouTube channel. We invite you to view them here:
The founder, Sandy Rosenthal has reviewed several books on the flood protection failures in metro New Orleans after Katrina. The book reviews have been compiled by Louisiana Book News and can be viewed here.
SELF GUIDED LEVEE DISASTER BIKE TOUR
In 2012, Levees.org rolled out a Self Guided Levee Disaster Bike Tour of three major levee breach sites in New Orleans’s Main Basin – the 17th Street Canal and the two breaches of the London Avenue Canal. To assist bikers, Levees.org created an interactive Google map and also a downloadable pdf. Using the maps, anyone, at any time, can view three breach sites – and the affected neighborhoods – of a disaster so catastrophic that the whole world watched it on TV.
LETTER WRITING TEAM
In 2007, Levees.org launched a letter-writing Team to contact and educate the editors of news sources whenever its reporters released incorrect information. Today, this Team operates nationwide and is endorsed by actor, producer Harry Shearer.
Levees.org also issues “Seals of Approval’ to reporters who properly characterize the flooding in metro New Orleans as due to levee failure rather than blaming the flooding solely on a storm, a practice which denies human responsibility. A story about Levees.org’s SOAs was featured in the New York Times in 2010.
Using video, Levees.org educates citizens nationwide on the facts surrounding the 2005 flooding. By strategically timing uploaded videos with email blasts to its supporters asking them to watch the video and send to their friend, Levees.org nearly always succeeds in making it to the top-100 “viewed today” page of YouTube. This is remarkable for a group of Levees.org’s size. One notable success was The Katrina Myth which Levees.org released during the Republican Convention in August 2008. The video was the #4th most viewed video in News and Politics for nearly a week.
HISTORIC PLAQUE PROGRAM
On August 23, 2010, Levees.org unveiled its first Louisiana State Historic Plaque on the property of the City of New Orleans at the breach site of the 17th Street Canal. The second Plaque was unveiled on May 20, 2011 at the breach site of the London Avenue Canal. Intended for both visitors and residents, the plaques, adorned with the Brown Pelican state bird, explain why the flood protection failed and what happened as a result. Both plaques are the result of neighborhood driven initiatives where community leaders approached Levees.org for help with the plaques. In both cases, Levees.org agreed to assist and offered to sponsor the Plaque. For more about the Plaque Program, click here.
LISTING OF TWO LEVEE BREACH SITES TO THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES
In August 2010, Levees.org announced its nomination of two levee breach sites to the National Register of Historic Places – the 17th Street Canal and the Industrial Canal (east side north). The sites are now National Register Eligible Properties and Levees.org’s documentation of the levee breaches (how and why they occurred, their significance, etc) has been placed in a public file which may be consulted by media, groups and individuals interested in the history of New Orleans’ levee systems, and the events surrounding the levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina. Levees.org has formally put in writing to the Louisiana Office of Historic Preservation its intention, after formal listing, to amend the nomination to include more breach sites, including but not limited to, the London Avenue Canal (both sides) and the Industrial Canal west and east side south breaches.
Utilizing the tools of social media, Levees.org has expanded its influence beyond the traditional collection of email addresses for communication. Levees.org has nearly 2,000 followers on Facebook and over 1,700 followers on Twitter. Levees.org is the first-ever and three year sustaining sponsor of Rising Tide, an annual bloggers conference.
TODAY AND BEYOND
Today, Levees.org has over 25,000 supporters and satellite chapters in five states including New York, Florida, Oregon, Illinois and Missouri. As stated at our kick off rally in January 2006, Levees.org shall not stop until the truth about the New Orleans flood becomes mainstream knowledge.
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