By Andrew Aho
Last October, I accompanied a GMA delegation that traveled to New Orleans to meet with members of the New Orleans District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Our discussion included about a dozen engineers at their just-reopened facility in the city.
I was struck by the sense of urgency and the sense of purpose that was palatable in the building. Everyone seemed stressed but mission-focused. The critical mission: rebuild the levees and protection system for New Orleans and the surrounding area. All the projects were on a fast track, of course, in an effort to provide defenses against the next storm.
During our meeting, John Bivona, chief of this district’s geotechnical branch, reviewed levee projects that incorporated geotextiles and geogrids. He said the Army Corps had much praise for geosynthetic materials used in this construction.
Further, he said that by incorporating geosynthetics the Army Corps was able to make the levees higher and stronger without expanding the footprint or base that is often immediately adjacent to streets or buildings. Bivona also said geosynthetic materials helped stabilize the poor soils encountered in the rebuilding projects and said they are used as a substitute for good fill that is hard to find in the New Orleans area.
The Army Corps provided GMA with a map and a list of the more than 160 rebuilding and reinforcement projects that they were overseeing. They also provided GMA with a list of consulting firms that are working with the Corps. The engineers urged members of the GMA delegation to contact the design and consulting firms working in New Orleans to educate them about the advantages of using geosynthetic products in their projects.
The Army Corps has made tremendous progress repairing and protecting New Orleans. The task before them seems daunting. And although many of the employees suffered personal losses themselves, they are not intimidated. Their professionalism and dedication should be recognized and appreciated by all of us.