Good morning and welcome to our fourth full committee hearing on the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Our first two hearings focused on the Federal response to the hurricanes and our most recent hearing considered some steps required to develop a comprehensive plan for Coastal Louisiana, including storm protection, navigation and wetlands restoration. Today, we will evaluate the degree to which the preliminary findings on the performance of the levees are being incorporated into the restoration of hurricane protection.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for coming today and participating in this Committee’s ongoing and comprehensive review of hurricane response and recovery. I appreciate your willingness to travel here, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Before we get too far down the road of deciding what we should do when rebuilding, we first must understand happened to the levees and why the city was flooded. If mistakes were made in the past, they must be rectified. There are a number of experts here today that have been taking a look at this very issue, and while it is too early for final conclusions, some preliminary assessments have already been made. I understand that the Army Corps of Engineers has been making some adjustments when restoring the current protection to take into account these initial findings.
This hearing is especially important in that it will help bring into focus the degree to which the preliminary findings on the failure of the levees are being incorporated into the restoration of hurricane protection in Louisiana. Repairs to the levee system must begin now in order to prepare for the next hurricane season, which means that we can’t wait for the final reports to begin the rebuilding. Conversely, if preliminary findings suggest areas of weakness in levee design or construction, it is important to incorporate those preliminary findings in near-term restoration efforts. The challenge we have at hand is incorporating the lessons learned from the ongoing assessment of levee performance while simultaneously restoring the levee system to pre-hurricane design standards.
Once again, thank you all for coming today. I look forward to working with all of you and my colleagues on the EPW Committee to ensure that we restore hurricane protection to Louisiana in an effective and responsible manner.