Fix the pumps

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another deadline missed

Back in June, when the Corps had the press out to the West Closure Complex for their pump demonstration (when they turned on 8 of the 11 pumps), they claimed all 11 would be ready by the peak of hurricane season, defined as the period between Augst 15 and October 1:

"[Corps project manager Kevin] Wagner said the remaining three pumps are expected to be operational by the peak of the hurricane season."

As of today, according to SLFPA-W inspector Danny Caluda, 10 of the 11 pumps (nos. 4 through 13) have been wet and dry tested, but pump number 3 is still not ready, and is possibly not going to be for quite a while. It kind of makes one wonder about Mr. Wagner's designation by the Corps as Project Manager of the Year, especially the fact it was given before the project was even close to finished.

What are the consequences of this? Looking at the results of the modeling done by the Corps in connection with the consequences of the pumping shortfall from the Interim Standing Instructions attached to the WCC Water Control Plan:

Water elevations behind the stations are shown in the left hand column. The reason they stop at 8.2 feet is that is the elevation when stormwater - pumped from local pump stations into the the detention basin formed by the Harvey and Algiers canals - would overflow the floodwalls and levees along those canals. This table assumes two things:

1) The floodgates at the WCC are closed, necessitating turning on the WCC pumps to remove the stormwater from the detention basin

2) The local pumping stations are pumping continuously the whole time, a circumstance the Corps calls "unlikely," but we all know what happens with events the Corps calls "unlikely."

Along the bottom row of the table is the total amount of time for that overflow to occur. It happens because the WCC has no spare capacity built it; it can only keep up with the local pumping stations with all 11 of its pumps on. As you can see, with only 8 pumps it would take a little over 17 hours for the local pump stations to overwhelm the WCC pumps and send water into neighborhoods (either over the floodwalls or because local pump stations would be shut down). There are now ten pumps in place, meaning the WCC can operate for 50 hours continuously until the walls are overtopped or the local pump stations must shut down.

Note that assumes all ten pumps don't break down at any point during that time.


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