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A Katrina Legacy: Addressing Levee Safety and Public Policy in the U.S.

Jeffrey R. Mount Gerald Galloway Carel J.J. Eijgenraam

Event Details:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
7:30pm - 9:30pm PDT
A Katrina Legacy: Addressing Levee Safety and Public Policy in the U.S.

Hurricane Katrina was a devastating event for the Gulf coast and the city of New Orleans. A levee system that was intended to provide flood protection during hurricane surges was severely challenged and failed leading to catastrophic physical damage, loss of life, and social impacts. Hurricane Katrina and the events in New Orleans have served to raise the public and political awareness of the reliance we place on a fragile levee infrastructure and the short-comings of current flood management policies in the U.S. With entire cities such as New Orleans, Sacramento, among others, as well as new communities relying on flood protection provided by hundreds of miles of often under-designed, poorly maintained levees, difficult questions about levee safety, flood management policy, and level of protection are now being asked.

With the reality of New Orleans in clear focus and a recognition that similar circumstances exist elsewhere in the country where catastrophic events could occur, the 2006 Shah Symposium at Stanford University will examine the difficult risk mitigation and policy issues that must be faced in California and elsewhere with respect to the management of a critical part of our nation’s civil infrastructure. Addressing levee safety and management is a diverse social, economic, environmental and political issue as highlighted by Governor Schwartzenager’s declaration of a state of emergency for the state's levee system. This unique declaration, made prior to the occurrence of a major event, is an effort to begin the process of addressing the fragile state of California’s levees. We are now faced with the need to develop effective strategies for managing the risks associated with our levee infrastructure, including public health and safety concerns, as well as local and state economic development, environmental impacts, and questions associated with who pays.

One of the many legacies of Katrina will be how the public, politicians, business leaders, and engineers respond to the harsh recognition that levees are a significant part of our nation’s infrastructure. In California the issue of levee integrity and safety is particularly acute. The 1100+ miles of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an integral element of the state water system and part of a unique, valued and vulnerable ecosystem. In addition, there is extensive infrastructure and capitol investment in the Delta, ranging from residential communities, businesses, and towns to state highways, rail lines, natural gas fields, gas and fuel pipelines, and drinking water pipelines (e.g., Mokelumne Aqueduct) and two deepwater ports. As a part of the state’s water system, two-thirds of Californians get some part of their drinking water from the Delta. Further, $400 billion of the states annual economy depends on Delta water exports.

Levee failures are difficult and expensive to repair. The recent 2004 ‘sunny-day’ failure of a levee along Middle River and the flooding of 12,000 acres on Upper and Lower Jones Tracts induced damages that exceed $100 million. In the event of multiple, simultaneous levee failures that could result from storms or a seismic event, the state water system would be severely impacted and have a devastating physical and financial impact on the entire state. Events may in fact be so severe, that we may not be able to fully recover.

Professor Jeffrey F. Mount, Department of Geology, UC Davis and Center for Integrated Watershed Science and Management. Professor Mount received a B.A. in Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1976, and a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from UC Santa Cruz in 1980. From 1980 to the present he has been a professor in the Department of Geology at UC Davis. He currently holds the Roy Shlemon Chair in Applied Geosciences and the University of California Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education. Current teaching and research interests include analysis of the response of rivers to changing watershed conditions, sedimentation patterns in floodplain environments, and ecosystem restoration in lowland floodplains and rivers. Dr. Mount is presently Director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and Director of the multi- disciplinary, multi-agency Cosumnes Research Group. Dr. Mount is a former Member of the State Reclamation Board and the California Bay-Delta Authority Independent Science Board. He is author of California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict between Fluvial Process and Land Use (UC Press).

Gerry Galloway is Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering and Affiliate Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and a Visiting scholar at the US Engineer Army Institute for Water Resources. He is also a senior consultant to the Michael Baker Corporation for the FEMA Flood Map Modernization Program. A civil engineer, public administrator and geographer, he has served as a water resources consultant to a variety of national and international government and business organizations. He was a Presidential appointee to the Mississippi River Commission and the American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee and served as Secretary of the US-Canada International Joint Commission. In 1993-1994, he led a White House study of the causes of the 1993 Mississippi River Flood. During a 38-year career in the military he served in various command and staff assignments in the US and overseas, retiring in 1995 as a brigadier general and Dean of Academics at the US Military Academy. He is president-elect of the American Water Resources Association, an Honorary Diplomate of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineering and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has served on eight committees of the National Research Council and is currently a member of the Water Science and Technology Board of the Council. He is a graduate of the Military Academy and holds Masters Degrees from Princeton and Pennsylvania State Universities and the US Army Command and General Staff College and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mr. Eijgenraam is the program leader for spatial economics at the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. He has been with the CPB since January 1973 where he has served in various departments. From December 1975 to the present he has served as a department head or program leader. Until 1992 Mr. Eijgenraam was the coordinator for sector forecasts at CPB and was the primary developer of the ATHENA sector model. Since 1999 Mr. Eijgenraam has been the program leader of the Spatial Economics section at CPB. He has served as the project leader for several studies associated with the macro-economic effects of energy and infrastructure projects and was one of the authors of the official government cost-benefit analysis guidelines for the evaluation of infrastructure projects. Recently, Mr. Eijgenraam prepared a CPB discussion paper entitled, “Optimal Safety Standards for Dike-Ring Areas” in which he looks at the cost-benefit of safety investments in the Dutch dike system. In his paper, Mr. Eijgenraam also takes a brief look at the optimal level of protection, from a benefit-cost perspective, which should be provided for the city of New Orleans.

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