NEW ORLEANS, LA – Yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) accredited the greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). The federal levee system will be represented on the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) as reducing risk within Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Plaquemines parishes. FEMA issued the accreditation following a formal and comprehensive process, after which the agency determined that the HSDRRS levee improvements will reduce the risk from the effects associated with a 100-year storm.
“We are pleased that FEMA has accredited the greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System,” said Col. Richard Hansen, commander of the New Orleans District. “This marks a historic moment for the city of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and the United States of America. For the first time in its long history, the greater New Orleans area will have a certified and accredited system in place that can defend against a 100-year storm surge. This accomplishment is significant in that it validates the work done not only by the Corps, but also by our partners at the State of Louisiana, in the five parish area for which this system reduces risk, the levee districts and the army of private contractors that mobilized to meet the challenge of completing the system and getting it ready for this accreditation in record time.”
The HSDRRS is better than at any time in history; nearly 133 miles of levees, floodwalls, gated structures and pump stations have been strengthened and improved. Construction of surge barriers at Lake Borgne, Seabrook, the New Orleans Outfall Canals and West Closure Complex have pushed the line of defense outside of the city, effectively removing about 68 miles of interior levees and floodwalls from exposure to storm surge.
“This is a very important step in our recovery, but it doesn’t mean we are done,” said Jerome Zeringue, executive assistant to Gov. Bobby Jindal for coastal activities. “We will continue to work with the Corps and the local levee districts in order to maintain and exceed this level of protection within the HSDRRS. This is an important milestone. However, there is a significant amount of work to be done across our coast to reduce risk and increase resiliency for our coastal communities."
Col. Hansen noted, “the monumental commitment to this task by two administrations was due in large part to the State's Senators and Representatives. While today is certainly a day that we have looked forward to since Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005, it is not a day to be boastful – but rather to give thanks and to press on with the work that remains. It is a time to remember what we have all done together, as well as to renew our commitment to vigilantly serve this great city and great state.”
To date, the Corps has obligated $11.8 of a total $14.45 billion for work on the HSDRRS. Remaining work includes the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Damage Reduction Project (SELA), the Permanent Canal Closures & Pump Stations, the New Orleans to Venice / Non-Federal levee project, the Mississippi River Levees, Mitigation and Armoring.
The safety of the public continues to be the top priority for the Corps. “I would be remiss in my duty if I did not say that even with this FEMA certification in place, we must remain prepared when facing a major storm event,” Col. Hansen emphasized. “If given an evacuation order by our local officials, I encourage everyone to heed those orders.”