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News Release 06-088

Researchers Release Draft Final Report on New Orleans Levees

700-page report suggests mechanisms for levee failures

Geotechnical engineers inspect a portion of the floodwall along the Industrial Canal.

Geotechnical engineers inspect a portion of the floodwall along the Industrial Canal.
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May 22, 2006

Following an eight-month study of the New Orleans levee system and its performance during Hurricane Katrina, a 30-person team of researchers led by Raymond Seed and Robert Bea of the University of California, Berkeley, released a near-complete draft of their findings today in a "town hall" meeting in that Gulf Coast city.

Seed received two National Science Foundation grants to collect perishable data and to conduct an independent field investigation of the performance of the New Orleans levee systems with the intent the findings would prove vital for gauging the performance of levee systems distributed across the United States.

The levee study is one of more than 100 NSF supported in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For decades, the agency has supported field investigations following all manner of disasters, allowing researchers to travel the world to collect perishable data as soon as possible after an event.

The results of these studies have provided emergency planners, responders and others with key findings ranging from how disasters inflict physical damage to the impact of social factors on evacuation and long-term emotional effects.

The Berkeley-led team's report is available at:

This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. CMS-0413327 and CMS-0611632. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.

Information about the report release is available from Robert Sanders, Manager of Science Communications at Berkeley:; (510) 643-6998

The NSF award abstracts for the Berkeley-led levee research efforts are below:

A listing of the NSF award abstracts related to the Katrina disaster are available on the NSF-supported Katrina Environmental Research and Restoration Network Website at:


Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730,
Robert L. Sanders, University of California, Berkeley, (510) 643-6998,

Program Contacts
Adnan Akay, NSF, (703) 292-4613,
Richard J. Fragaszy, NSF, (703) 292-8360,

Principal Investigators
Raymond B. Seed, University of California, Berkeley, (510) 643-8438,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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Researchers have suggested multiple mechanisms for failure of New Orleans levees.
Researchers have suggested multiple mechanisms for failure of New Orleans levees.
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Still from levee animation showing 465-foot breach.
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This animation shows how the researchers suggest the 17th Street levee failed.
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