Take for instance the 1.8-mile-long, 26-foot-high surge barrier southeast of the French Quarter that blocks water coming up from the Gulf of Mexico across lakes and into the city’s canals. Water from this direction doomed the Lower 9th Ward and threatened to flood the French Quarter. Maintaining this giant wall alone will cost $4 million or more a year.
‘‘You have to get out there and do exercises, do the preventive maintenance, change out equipment over time on a particular schedule,’’ Turner said, enumerating the challenges. ‘‘There are a lot of cases where a single thing goes wrong and that can create a failure, a complete failure where you can’t close the system.’’
There is a mounting list of to-dos.
Already, lightning has knocked out chunks of wall. Grass hasn’t grown well on several new stretches of levee. Louisiana State University grass experts have been called in to help seed them.
There are recurring problems with vibrations and shuddering on a new floodgate at Bayou Dupre in St. Bernard Parish. The corps has plans to overhaul the structure in the spring before handing it over to local control. And there will be the inevitable sinking of levees and structures, as always happens in south Louisiana’s naturally soft soils. Over time, levees will have to be raised.
Col. Ed Fleming, the New Orleans corps commander, said his outfit will work to ensure the transition to local control is smooth.
‘‘This happens with corps civil projects all over the country. That’s the way it works in Iraq, Afghanistan,’’ he said. ‘‘We have authority to build, but we have no authority to do operations and maintenance.’’