METAIRIE, La. - A 10-year construction project aimed at protecting people in New Orleans and the surrounding area from deadly storm surges during hurricanes is now complete.
Levees and flood gates have all been upgraded around New Orleans -- a project that began after Hurricane Katrina struck 17 years ago.
"It reduces the risk of catastrophic damage like we saw during Katrina," said Rene Poche with the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005 as a Category 3 hurricane, but it was the massive storm surge and ensuing failure of the levees that flooded New Orleans and was a large part of the storm's $75 billion in damage. It still remains the most-costly hurricane in U.S. history. Over 1,200 people died in the storm, of which around 1,000 were in Louisiana.
The federal government invested more than $14 billion for the project involving new and improved levees, floodgates, and water pump stations that are built to withstand a storm surge up to 30 feet.
Poche said the project spans five parishes.
"That's a perimeter of 133 miles of levees and floodwalls, (and) pump stations," Poche said. He adds one of the three new pump stations, located in the Belle Chasse area, is the world's largest pump station of its kind.
"And the surge barrier out in New Orleans East - that's a $1.2 billion project," Poche said. "Plus, we built new levees in some spots around the area; built new flood walls in some spots around the area. So it was a holistic system."