Myth Busters compiled by

Destruction at 17th Street Canal breach site. Photo credit unknown

MYTH: The Orleans Levee Board used politics to force the Army Corps of Engineers to build the inadequate levee system that failed during Hurricane Katrina.

TRUTH: As revealed in the New York Times, experts J. David Rogers and Raymond Seed retracted this erroneous conclusion in their 2006 levee investigation. The levees failed mainly due to a mistake the Army Corps made in the 1980s when interpreting the results of their levee load test study.
Source: Water Policy, Vol 17, Issue 4; Abstract.

Myth Buster Two

MYTH: New Orleans should not be rebuilt because the city lies entirely below sea level. 

TRUTH: Half of New Orleans is at or well above sea level.
Source: Tulane School of Architecture 

Myth Buster Three

MYTH: The vast majority of property losses in New Orleans were uninsured. 

TRUTH: Pre-Katrina, more New Orleans homeowners had flood insurance per capita than the rest of the nation according to data obtained by Donald Powell with the Bush administration.
Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Myth Buster Four

MYTH: New Orleans has a peculiar geography in that it relies heavily on levees for protection. 

TRUTH: Fifty-five percent of the U.S. population lives in counties protected by levees. Click on map below to enlarge.
Source: FEMA.

U.S. Counties with Levees and Major Cities within those Counties

Myth Buster Five

MYTH: A hundred thousand people in New Orleans did not evacuate even though they were warned that the levees could breach. 

TRUTH: Pre-Katrina, there was no warning that the levees in New Orleans could breach and fail. There was no such warning from federal or state officials nor from hurricane or engineering experts.
Source: Digital Journal

Myth Buster Six

MYTH: After the storm, the levee boards were “reformed” and made similar to other levee districts in the U.S. 

TRUTH: New Orleans was the first urban area in the nation to create a regional board with experts. The post Katrina changes were needed because the Greater New Orleans levee system has no peer in the U.S. in terms of complexity, cost and population protected.
Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Myth Buster Seven

MYTH: The Orleans Levee Board ignored federal requirements to maintain the levees regularly and spent only a few hours annually inspecting them before going to lunch. 

TRUTH: The widely publicized “drive-by” levee inspections pre-Katrina were primarily social/ceremonial and were conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, not the levee board, to inspect the local sponsor’s year-round maintenance activity.
Source:Water Policy, Vol 17, Issue 4; Monday morning quarterbacking

Sheet piling remain connected like a giant grosgrain ribbon at the Industrial Canal. Photo/Roy Arrigo

Myth Buster Eight

MYTH: Environmentalists blocked the Army Corps of Engineers’ original plan for massive peripheral barriers and forced the agency to propose a second inferior design.

TRUTH: The Army Corps decided that the High Walls Plan, or raising the heights of the levees, was less costly, less damaging to the environment and more acceptable to local interests.
Source: Water Policy, Vol 17, Issue 4; Frontage vs parallel protection

Myth Buster Nine

MYTH: New Orleans doesn’t deserve to be rebuilt because of its nearly complete dependence on levees for protection. 

TRUTH: New Orleans is a very important port city to the world. Furthermore, U.S. counties protected by levees are wealthier and unemployment is lower. Levees more than pay for themselves when their cost is compared to the investment they protect.
Source: New Orleans Times Picayune

Myth Buster Number Ten

MYTH: The Army Corps of Engineers admitted fault for the failure of its levee system during Hurricane Katrina. 

TRUTH: No corps official has accepted responsibility for the failure of the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina without simultaneously – and also wrongly – directing blame toward local officials and environmental groups.
Source: Water Policy, Vol 17, Issue 4; Introduction