Louisiana Attorney General Begins Levee Investigation

Wed November 23, 2005 - Southeast Edition

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) The state attorney general’s office is investigating whether the collapse of canal floodwalls during Hurricane Katrina warrants criminal or civil action.

Attorney General Charles Foti said he wants to know whether poor construction or design flaws contributed to the wall failures.

The Orleans Parish district attorney’s office also confirmed it started a preliminary investigation into the materials used in the floodwalls. It is determining whether a grand jury should be impaneled.

The office is requesting copies of pertinent reports and is aware of recent congressional testimony about possible malfeasance in floodwall construction, said Leatrice Dupre, spokeswoman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

The state is investigating breaches in the 17th Street and London Avenue canal walls. It also could focus on the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, which has been cited as possible cause for flooding the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

If there is evidence of flawed walls, the attorney general’s office could seek a declaratory judgment in an Orleans Parish civil court to pinpoint the flaws as the reason homes in those neighborhoods were devastated by floodwaters. That could help homeowners get their insurance companies to cover the damage, Foti said.

Investigators also would review the findings of a Louisiana State University Hurricane Center team, Foti said. The team is trying to determine how much water the Army Corps of Engineers-designed floodwalls could safely handle, as well as how deep critical sheet pilings were driven beneath the concrete walls to support the structures.