In June, the Army Corps of Engineers proudly announced that new gates and levee repairs meant residents returning to Lakeview and Old Metairie would see floodwaters reduced by up to 5 1/2 feet if the city were hit by a 100-year hurricane.
They were off by 5 feet.
The reason? The Lakeview data got fouled up when somebody put a minus sign in a calculation that called for a plus sign, Ed Link, leader of the corps-sponsored Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, said Friday. The Old Metairie errors stemmed from faulty assumptions about the way water would move into and out of the neighborhood from surrounding areas, Link said.
In other words, flood protection in Lakeview and Old Metairie has hardly improved at all since the neighborhoods drowned in the 2005 flood -- despite the public celebrations of corps officials and others in releasing the maps on Hurricane Katrina's second anniversary.
Federal Gulf Coast Recovery Chief Donald Powell had called the reduced flood risk one of the most important events in the state's recovery. "If I were in the real estate business, or if I were anticipating coming to live in New Orleans, the first thing I would look at are these maps we're releasing today," he said at a June 21 news conference.
The correct flooding estimates are listed in a table in the IPET team's long-awaited risk study, which was released without fanfare two weeks ago. The new numbers show only a 1/2-foot difference between the risk of flooding in both neighborhoods before Katrina and today.