Fix the pumps

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The outfall canal remediation follies

Since my last three posts concentrated so closely on debris questions raised during the 2011 17th Street canal, London Avenue canal, and Orleans Avenue canal remediation projects, I didn't have room to mention other stories that emerged from the Quality Control (QC, compiled by the prime contractor) and Quality Assurance (QA, compiled by the Corps) reports on those projects. The contractor is responsible for actually putting out a quality product (QC), while the Corps' QA responsibilities are simply to make sure the specifications and drawings are followed. As such, the Corps' oversight abilities are not as strong as the general public might believe. However, they are not innocent bystanders either.

Which brings us to the first "other story" that comes out of the reports...

Copying and pasting alive and well at the Corps

This comes from the 17th Street project (prime contractor: Bailey-CKY Joint Venture). I read the QC and QA reports alongside each other to see if one report would mention something that another would not. While doing so, I started to notice remarkable similarities between the two groups of reports.

The February 26, 2011 QC report from the contractor reads:
"Started clearing and grubbing on the East Bank of canal between stations 567+00 and 581+00. Material is being hauled to the north end of the laydown area and stockpiled for subsequent hauling to offsite location. A small windrow of material was left along the silt fencing for additional jet grounting [sic] spoil protection. This material will be removed prior to levee re-construction."

And here's an excerpt from the Corps' February 26, 2011 report:
"Bailey-CKY crew started clearing and grubbing on the esat [sic] bank of the canal between stations 567+00 and 581+00. Material is being hauled to the north end of the laydown area and stockpiled for subsequent hauling to offsite location. A small windrow of material was left along the silt fencing for add jet grout spoil protection. This material will be removed prior to levee reconstruction."

When you see Corps personnel - that are supposed to be overseeing contractors - copying and pasting the contractor's reports into their own reports, it gives you a chilly feeling down your spine. And this was not an isolated incident. From the February 23, 2011 contractor QC report:
"Work performed today (loc. and descrip. of work performed by Contractor) - Layne Geo continued set up of equipment on site and assembly of the cement pumping systems. - Placed riprap on west side of canal between stations 558+70 and 590+15 (approx. 145 linear feet). Total linear footage of riprap placed to date is 400 linear feet."

And from the February 23, 2011 Corps QA report:
"Layne Geo continued to assemble B300 drill rig and assemble the concrete [sic] pumping systems. Crew place [sic] riprap on the westside of the canal between stations 558+70 and 590+15 (approx. 145 linear feet). Total Linear feet place [sic] is 400 linear feet."

There's lots more examples of this. There were also other QA curiosities.

The July 21, 2011 QA report reads:
Contractor dressing/grading slopes along eastbank to final grades. Removing crane mats

Contractor grading slopes along eastbank to final grade. JC Creek on site for 1st day to start turf establishment. Removed large stones greater than 3" from levee. JC Creek placed DAP and Sulphur from stations 553+45 to 586+00.
J&R Concrete forming bike path.
Layne finished remedial coring at station 581+56B/C and 592+91.25B/C

SSE performed survey work for grading.
Street sweeper maintaining streets at east and west banks.
Water truck in operation watering sreets [sic] for dust control around worksite"

When I read it, I thought it sounded familiar, so I paged back and found the following for the July 15, 2011 QA update:
Contractor dressing/grading slopes along eastbank to final grades. Removing crane mats

Contractor grading slopes along eastbank to final grade. JC Creek on site for 1st day to start turf establishment. Removed large stones greater than 3" from levee. JC Creek placed DAP and Sulphur from stations 553+45 to 586+00.
J&R Concrete forming bike path.
Layne finished remedial coring at station 581+56B/C and 592+91.25B/C

SSE performed survey work for grading.
Street sweeper maintaining streets at east and west banks.
Water truck in operation watering sreets [sic] for dust control around worksite"

Amazing! The exact same work performed the exact same way on two separate days!
Of course, that's not really what happened. Here's part of the contractor QC report from July 15, 2011:
"Work Performed Today (loc. and descrp. of work performed by Contractor)
- East side of canal embankment - No embankment work today due to rain. Unloaded 2 truk load[s] of round bales of hay.
- West side of canal embankment - No work today due to rain."

Interesting. They were actually rained out on the 15th. And here's the QC report from the 21st:
"Work Performed Today (loc. and descrp. of work performed by Contractor)

- East side of the canal embankment- Used Trimble GPS to layout levee for final grading. Loading crane mats from Bellaire laydown yard.
- West side of the canal embankment- Finalizing grading. JC Cheek on site to begin turf establishment. Bailey CKY JV had a crew of four employees to pick any debris 3" or larger as JC Cheek prepared the levee for turf establishment. Used street sweeper and shovels to clean Orpheum Drive."

Which matches the QA report from the 21st. So the content of the Corps QA report on the 21st was copied and pasted into the Corps QA report for the 15th, bringing into question when exactly the Corps QA inspectors were compiling their reports. It appears in this case, the July 15th QA report was compiled almost a week later.

All this copying and pasting makes one very suspicious of the oversight being performed by the Corps QA representatives.

Public Comment, Schmublic Comment

Last March, I was attempting to track the remediation projects in real time. One of the issues I came across was the Corps' use of publicly owned, mostly residential lots for access to the London Avenue canal.

To gain access to the canal with cranes and to stage building materials, in addition to areas they had previously announced the Corps proposed using 13 lots owned by the Louisiana Land Trust (aka "LLT," the repository for properties sold to the state of Louisiana through the Road Home program), as well as a 14th site owned by the City of New Orleans' Department of Parks and Parkways. Here's the location of the lots (the original staging locations are in yellow and the 14 new ones are in blue):

The Corps had originally wanted to do this staging and access from the bridges crossing the canal at Filmore and Mirabeau Avenues, but was not able to coordinate that work with the City of New Orleans, who was performing resurfacing work on and around the bridges at the same time.

To meet federal environmental requirements, the Corps - through the expedited Individual Environmental Reporting (IER) process set up post-Federal Flood - announced their intention to use the 14 lots in a supplemental to the IER which had authorized the canal remediation work. That supplemental - IERS 27.a - was publicly issued March 14, 2011 and was open for public comment for 30 days, until April 14, 2011. Until that public comment period closed, the extra lots were not to be used for staging.

Thanks to yeoman work by The Lens' Steve Beatty, I managed to catch the Corps using the 14 lots before the public comment period even opened:

Here's pictures of construction equipment on the empty lot at 5332 Warrington from February and March, 2011:

I posted about this on March 17, 2011, the day after I emailed the Corps asking what was going on (that email string is part of the final IER supplemental, found here). I received a response on March 22nd - included in the March 17th post - which seemed to admit their boo boo. At the time I noted they probably thought it was better to seek forgiveness rather than permission.

Now, with the contractor QC reports for the London Avenue project (prime contractor: Integrated Pro Services, or IPS), we know what was happening behind the scenes. The topic of the 14 lots was extensively discussed from the very beginning of the project. In fact, the very first QC report with text in it, from January 5, 2011, discusses the 13 LLT lots:
"Talked to Carmen Williams (USACE Project Engineer) about our Access Plan (submitted on 12-29-10) pertaining to the 'required site access' IPS required from LA Land Trust. I expressed to her would like to mob[ilize] our office trailers on Monday (1-10-11). Carmen stated since the 'required site access' is not environmental[ly] cleared we cannot proceed with mobilization on the 'required site access.' She has stated the Access Plan and environmental clearances have been routed to the properate [sic] offices to be reviewed and IPS should know something on these issues by 1-14-11.
Carmen stated she would talk to Greg Schultz (Contracting Officer) about our situation."

Another meeting took place two days later, on January 7, 2011:
"Met with Laura Lee and Lee (USACE Environmental) on site concerning the 'required site accesses.' We rode each individual site and explained that each site would only [be] temporary staging for concrete pump trucks, materials, and misc. items. We stated the site would be matted, so that the ground would not be disturbed during construction operations. They took pictures of each site and document[ed] the site conditions. They stated they would go back and talk to their group and decision will be made next week."

A third meeting took place the following Monday, January 10, 2011:
"Met with Carmen, Project Manager, and [USACE] Environmental to show and discuss the 'required access sites.' This was the third time meeting about these areas. The Environmental group has taken all the information back to their department to make a determination on these sites. They stated that a IER may have to take place to obtain approval for these site[s], this could take up to 60 days."

We know now an IER was required. The contractor didn't report on the extra sites again until February 1, 2011:
"Had weekly progress meeting. [Corps engineer] Chuck [Brannon] stated that the 'access properties' have been elevated to the Conlenal [sic, probably meant "Colonel," referring to the Colonel in charge of the Hurricane Protection Office] and should have an answer on the status by the end of the week. He also stated the supplemental IER package is complete and ready to be submitted. The submittal process should take about 45-50 days once submitted."

So all parties were aware at the beginning of February, 2011 that the 14 properties were on hold until the IER process had played out. That included allowing the public to be informed and comment on what was happening in their neighborhood and next door to some of their houses. Then came this mention on February 15, 2011:
"Greg Schultz (Contracting Officer) gave a verbal that the access properties are approved for access."

And that is how the public gets screwed. The Corps says, "forget all that public comment BS - just do what you want." Except in this case, they got caught.

The very same day I received my response from the Corps on the 14 lots admitting their error - March 22, 2011 - here's what was in the QC report:
"Greg Schultz (CO) stated that the access properties acquired [sic - should be "required"] cannot be used until the IER has been signed. The earliest these properties can be utilized is April 15, 2011 [the day after the public comment period for the IER closed]. A letter dated February 15, 2011, sent from Greg Schultz (CO) states that the "access properties" are approved to be utilized."

In other words, "We, the contractor, are throwing the Corps under the bus. They told us - in print - we could use the lots, and they were wrong."

I cannot believe this is an isolated case. Too many times public comment on Corps projects post-Federal flood has been just so much stagecraft because all the decisions have already been made. The most obvious case was the public's overwhelming desire for Option 2 (concrete-lined, ground level canals with a single pump station)along the outfall canals and the Corps' decision to use the cheaper Option 1 (remediated walls and multiple pump stations on each canal). I must say though it is remarkable seeing it in print.

17th Street wall movements - and leak!

I'm not exactly sure what to make of this one. It appears to fit a pattern of job requirements changing on Corps jobs once construction gets underway, from big stuff to small stuff, so I thought I would report on it.

The 17th Street remediation job consisted mostly of placement of deep soil mixing columns in groups of six along many sections of both sides of the canal. Here's a view from above of that arrangement from the project drawings:

In general, each grouping, called a "panel," was placed at 14.5' centers along the length of the wall (this was changed from the original 10' centers shown above based upon test columns that were placed at the beginning of the project). Note that while the drawings show nine columns for each panel, there were actually only six (presumably bigger diameter) columns in each panel. From the March 3, 2011 QC report:
"An element is the [sic] considered 3 columns and a panel is [a] complete 16.7-foot series of 2 elements."

The columns went down to somewhere between 20 and 40 feet below sea level, depending upon location along the canal. When you so radically alter the foundation of levees with sheet piling wall partially stuck in them, you can expect one thing: movement of the walls.

So the Corps had the contractor monitor the walls for movement, using Trimble GPS monitors and straightedges, something called a digital "smart" level and who knows what else. The point is they were watching the walls near where they were placing the columns. This started on February 28, 2011.

At first they were monitoring the walls the entire day in real time. The first numerical results from the wall monitoring appear in the March 5, 2011 QC report:
"After the first element installation it appeared that the wall moved slightly at the expansion joint near the top. Monitored the other three element installations by placing a tape measure across the expansion joints and monitoring the movement real time. The walls were observed to move between 5/16" and 1/2". Movement was a separation at the top of the wall at the expansion joint and slight movement toward the protected [i.e. land] side. We informed the onsite [Quality Assurance Representative] as soon as we confirmed wall movement."

Again, while this sounds bad, I'm not sure it shouldn't be expected.

Two days later, we got some more numbers. From the March 7, 2011 QC report:
"We were instructed to continue with jet grouting after we informed the USACE that we recorded wall movement up to 3/4" at the top of the wall expansion joint during the installation of one element."

So we got up to 3/4" two days later, and the Corps determined that was acceptable. Okay.

For the next three days, the QC reports said the following:
"Continued 'real time' monitoring of wall movement at expansion joints at the top of the wall as well as by use of a digital level and GPS system. Wall movement did not exceed 1/2" either vertically or horizontally during today's activities."

On March 11, 2011, "real time" measurement was discontinued. After that, measurements were only taken before and after column placement operations. The contractor did station a person to watch the wall during work to look for "significant" movement.

After March 11, the QC reports started reporting wall movement with nearly the same verbiage every time. A typical passage from the March 12, 2011 QC report:
"Continued to monitor movement on I-Wall. Measurements were recorded before and after drilling operations. We still had a person visually monitor the wall for any 'significant' movement. The was no wall movement in excess of 1/2" vertically or horizontally measured."

Note that it doesn't say there was zero movement, just that there wasn't any movement more than 1/2". This 1/2" criterion continued to be used through April 7. On April 8th, there was a significant change in the boilerplate (the verbiage had changed slightly by then):
"Continued to monitor movement on I-Wall. Two staff members of Bailey-CKY JV were on each side of the canal throughout grouting process. No wall movement in excess of 1.0" was physically measured during today's operations. Each monolithic panel where jetting has occurred is measured at the end of the day using static GPS and recorded."

So the limit/criterion/rule of thumb/whatever was doubled. There's no reason given for this in the QC or QA reports around that time. The 1.0" number remains in the QC reports all the way to the end of the column placement work on June 20, 2011.

Why does any of this matter, except as a matter of curiosity? Because when you move a segmented wall with water against it, sometimes stuff comes through the gaps. From the April 12, 2011 QA report:
"East bank coring:

I visually observed [deep soil mixing subcontractor] Layne Geo coring at EG58022 Element A. [W]hen I looked at the base of the I-wall a couple of away for [sic] where there [sic] coring saw some water leaking for [sic] the base of the I-wall. [T]hen started video recording on my camera the leak. I have save[d] the video on my computer. The water only leaked when they was [sic] coring, then it slow[ed] down to no more leaking after the coring stopped."

By way of explanation, "cores" are small diameter borings taken from completed columns for later testing to ensure the columns' integrity and conformance with specifications.

This leak from the canal - which is not mentioned in the April 12th QC report - combined with the apparent doubling in permitted permanent deformation of the walls four days earlier, raises some very interesting questions. The most obvious one is whether sections of the canal I-walls were permanently deformed by the deep soil mixing process? While walls may not have moved permanently more than 1.0", they could have moved 0.95" (horizontally or vertically) and not gotten a mention.

Another question is what the acceptable number is for permanent deformation of the walls during operations like this? The individual sections of wall (the stuff you can see above ground) have flexible waterstops between them. It was one of those waterstops that failed on the London Avenue canal just a month before the 17th Street canal leak reported above. Can those waterstops take up to 1.0" of deformation? That's unknown.

So the wall movement measurements during the 17th Street remediation project leave us with more questions than answers. What prompted the end of "real time" operations? Why was the limit for permanent deformation raised from 1/2" to 1" mid-project? Were there other leaks during the project that went unreported? Are the walls permanently deformed, and is that a concern?

In the next post post after next I'll wrap all this outfall canal stuff up and detail what's driving the future remediation work (not the permanent pumps, but more work on the levees and walls) still to come on all three canals.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Debris Part 14

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13

Let's move along to the Orleans Avenue canal. As before, a main source of information is the contractor's Quality Control (QC) and the Corps' Quality Assurance (QA) reports. There were two projects at the Orleans Avenue canal, OFC-4A (which is what most of the work was conducted under; prime contractor IPS, same as on London Avenue) and OFC-06 (which consisted only of installation of a stability berm along one reach on the east bank of the canal between Harrison and Filmore; prime contractor Progressive, with Cycle Construction performing all actual work):

As with other projects, the Corps didn't remediate everything that had a Safe Water Elevation below their target of 8 feet (we don't know why):

Here's the QC and QA reports for both projects:

OFC-4A QC reports March 1, 2011 - May 31, 2011
OFC-4A QC reports May 31, 2011 - August 21, 2011
OFC-4A QA reports March 1, 2011 - May 31, 2011
OFC-4A QA reports May 31, 2011 - August 11, 2011

OFC-06 QC reports January 6, 2011 - March 30, 2011
OFC-06 QC reports May 23, 2011 - July 28, 2011
OFC-06 QA reports January 6, 2011 - March 30, 2011
OFC-06 QA reports May 23, 2011 - July 28, 2011

All the quotes in this post, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the QC reports.

There don't seem to be any debris problems with much smaller project OFC-06. However, the very existence of OFC-06 provides a fascinating story I'll get into later.

At OFC-4A, there were substantial debris problems, both with the existing levee and with the new work. We'll start near the end of the project, in June, 2011.

Corps leaves jet grout spoils in levee

Part of the project involved installation of sheet piling on the west bank of the canal under the I-610 bridge. The contractor ran into problems on June 1, 2011 when they happened on existing sheet piling that could not be removed. The following day there was a meeting of the minds:
"USACE RE [Resident Engineer], PE [Project Engineer] and QC [contractor quality control rep] were on site in order to evaluate the situation of removing the existing sheet piles under the I-610 bridge. USACE PE instructed that due to the inability to remove the existing piles we will tie into them. USACE PE is looking into whether or not jet grouting will be required to ensure stabilization"

Here's a picture of the area of concern, taken from a June 8, 2011 update given by the Corps to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East:
They kept trying to pull out the piles for four days after that, but they eventually stopped. Another meeting was held on site on June 9th:
"Meeting held on site with Hayward Baker PM, HB Super, HPO PM, USACE RE and QA, IPS QCM and Super [i.e. Hayward Baker (the jet grouting contractor), the Corps, and IPS (the prime contractor)]. Meeting was held at the site where the jet grouting will take place. Discussed the column location and the columns' width and how many would be installed. USACE RE state that the change order request was being issued to IPS in the next 24 hours and wanted Hayward Baker and IPS to start coordinating the work to be performed. He state that the submittals needed first would be equipment and the work plan. Hayward Baker will submit same mix design as used on previous Corps project."

So they would be using jet grouting to stabilize the tie-in between the new sheet piling and the old. Jet grouting is a process where a grouty slurry is injected into the soil and allowed to harden, forming a substance called "soilcrete." Sometimes the injected substance is just grout, sometimes there's air added, and sometimes there's air and water added. It's been used all over the greater New Orleans area since the 2005 levee failures. More detail about the process is available at Hayward Baker's website.

Preparation work for the jet grouting began on June 14th:
"Sealevel began installing backfill for sheet pile trench from STA 12+10 through STA 3+80. STA 3+80 through STA 2+00 left open intentionally to backfill trench with jet grout waste"

Now there's two ways to take that. From what I've learned about jet grouting, sometimes the spoils (the stuff that bubbles back to the surface after injecting the grout down into the soil) are routed to a trench so they don't spread all over the place. Then they are disposed of. Under Corps specifications for this project, and indeed every project, jet grouting spoils (a kind of cementy, dirty slurry) were "unsuitable material," and were to be disposed of from the project site within 48 hours. They can't be left inside the levee because they're not the right density. In other words, they're trash. So the above passage could be taken as routine preps to simply contain the spoils for later disposal. Or it could be read as a CYA by the contractor to let future readers know that jet grout spoils were to be left inside the levee. I believe it's the latter.

The prep work continued for a few days, and then on June 21st the jet grouting began:
"Hayward Baker began installing jet grout columns under the I-610 bridge. Baker began with the 1st 4' diameter column. The columns installed were 65' in length...

IPS was responsible for handling the jet grout spoils. IPS dug trenches along the jet grout area so the spoils could run into the sheet pile trench. The spoils were placed from STA 1+97 through 2+45. About 30 cubic yards of spoils were removed from the trench and designated for removal from site tomorrow. The remainder of the spoils is being used as backfill."

So they were trenching to collect the spoils. But more importantly, they also deliberately left spoils in the levee. This went on for two more days.

June 22:
"IPS is responsible for handling the jet grout spoils. IPS dug trenches along the jet grout area so the spoils could run into the sheet pile trench. The spoils were placed from STA 1+97 through 2+45. About 15 cubic yards of spoils were removed from the trench and designated for removal from site tomorrow. The remainder of the spoils is being used as backfill. IPS hauled out excess spoils from the site."

June 23:
"IPS is responsible for handling the jet grout spoils. IPS dug trenches along the jet grout area so the spoils could run into the sheet pile trench. The spoils were placed from STA 1+97 through 2+45 and STA 2+45 through STA 3+70. The spoils used for backfill were left 12" below the sheet pile top elevation and 18" below the top of final grade for STA 2+40 through STA 1+98."

A subsequent paragraph in the June 23rd report gives the impression they were trying to hide the fact spoils were being used as levee backfill:
"QC Manager inspected the installation of one 4' diameter 65' jet grout columns under the I-610 bridge. Inspected the placement of the spoils from jet grout columns into the PZ27 sheet pile trench. The spoils were placed at least 18" below the final grade where dirt is to be placed and grass is to be grown."

There is no doubt jet grout spoils are supposed to be disposed of. From the Corps' own specifications:
"3.7.4 Disposal of Spoil

The Contractor shall remove all waste and all spoil materials produced as a result of the ground improvement operation and remove the materials from the job site as part of the contract price."
- Section 31 32 13.00 12, 'Ground Improvement'"

Hayward Baker, the company doing the jet grouting, also has model specifications available on their website. Here's what they say about spoils:
"At completion of daily Jet Grouting operations, thoroughly clean site and dispose of all spoil debris, water, and spilled material. Spoil stockpiling overnight is permitted prior to transfer to a predetermined waste or fill location."

To put it simply, the Corps deliberately ignored their own specifications and their own contractor's published guidance and left unsuitable material inside the Orleans Avenue canal levees on June 21-23, 2011.

Stumps, light pole foundations, trash

All the following quotes are taken directly from the contractor QC reports. They speak for themselves.

March 24:
"While clearing and grubbing [subcontractor] Newline encountered chunks of concrete and 3.5" pipe that was in the soil. The debris will be removed prior to any embankment operations take [sic] place"

April 11:
[During initial excavation of area under I-610 bridge]
"[Sheet pile prep work subcontractor] Sealevel has found large obstructions in the excavated areas. Obstructions include concrete, rebar, trash, and other miscellaneous materials"

April 12
"Sealevel continued to excavate trench for sheet pile installation. Still, they are finding obstructions in the clay. Obstructions are being documented by photographs. RFI is being worked on for replacing [with] suitable material."

May 6
"[Dry soil mixing subcontractor] Hayward Baker installed test columns for ground improvements. Test columns were installed at STA 46+00. The first two test holes were abandoned due to Hayward Baker hitting concrete 4 meters into the hole."

May 12:
"[Prime contractor] IPS excavated 9' down and found a 4' in diameter cypress stump... the excavation was backfilled"

May 17:
"Sealevel began installing the 2nd PZ27 sheet pile but had to extract the sheet due to an obstruction hit 10' into the soil. Sealevel excavated the obstruction and uncovered a large cypress stump that was 5' in diameter and at least 4.5' deep. A RFI was inputted to USACE about the removal of the obstruction. Sealevel plans to mob[ilize] in a tiger tooth attachment to tear the stump up tomorrow."

May 24:
"When [sheet pile installation subcontractor] Blue Iron was driving the 10th pile for the day at STA 6+54 through STA 6+58 the encountered an obstruction 3' deep that they could not penetrate. It was too late in the day to begin excavation to investigate what the obstruction is. It seems to be concrete but IPS can not confirm until the obstruction is excavated. IPS will excavate the obstruction in the morning."

May 25:
"Obstruction at STA 6+54 through STA 6+58 was an old concrete light post foundation that was 5.5' in length and the girth was 8.5'. The concrete post was excavated and removed and the excavation was backfilled with suitable material.

At STA 6+62 through STA 6+66 Blue Iron hit another obstruction 4' into the soil. IPS uncovered the obstruction and uncovered another light post foundation the same size as the one found at STA 6+54. Total time lost due to the obstructions was 6 hours. IPS backfilled that excavation as well and compacted the fill."

June 1:
"At approximately 0930 hit an obstruction during installation of the PZC18's. Sealevel excavated and removed a 10'x12' cypress stump. It caused a delay of 4 hours.

At approximately 1700 HBI [Hayward Baker] encountered a large tree stump while installing Ground Improvement Column 62A. After several hours of trying to remove the stump the USACE RE [Resident Engineer] was contacted and we were told to move the columns 3' to the south. Due to the stump's size it broke several tools on the drill and the rest of the day was spent repairing the tools."

June 6:
"Sealevel large cypress tree stump at 2+65"

June 8:
"Blue Iron hit an obstruction at STA 10+90 while driving the PZC 18 sheet piles. The obstruction was 4' deep, IPS excavated the obstruction and found a cypress stump that was approximately 6' in diameter and 5' deep. The obstruction was removed and the excavation was backfilled and compacted."

These only represent what was found at the sections into which they dug. Are we seriously supposed to believe that the sections of levee untouched by this project are pristine after reading this stuff? 10'x12' stumps and concrete light pole foundations do not make for reliable levees.

Part of levee missing since 1997?

I recently obtained the latest iteration of the Corps' safe water elevation (SWE) reports. They've been rechristened "Mean Operating Water Level" (MOWL) reports and were issued in April, 2011:

17th Street
Orleans Avenue
London Avenue

The substance of the reports remains the same, but There have been significant revisions to calculations between the October, 2010 versions and these April, 2011 ones, plus they read much more smoothly now.

In the Orleans Avenue canal report, though, I came upon this new verbiage:
"The FOS calculated by the Spencer’s Method of analysis for Reaches 10B, 17, 18A, and 20B are slightly less than the required 1.4 with the water level in the canal at El 1.0 NAVD88. This water level corresponds with the normal Lake water level. This indicates an inadequate FOS without the influence of the canal water load. These low FOS were the result of the low shear strengths identified in the 2010 CPTs advanced at the toe of these levees. Reach 18A was designed with a protected side stabilization berm extending approximately 90 feet from the I-Wall. This berm is shown in DM-19 [6] and on the “as-built” drawings [11]. The topographic survey performed in 2010 [12] indicated that the berm width was about 30 feet in this reach."

Now it's bad enough there were at least were four reaches which could not meet the Corps' standards when the water was simply at normal tidal levels. In fact, reaches 10B and 20B were not included in the remediation project. But what I highlighted above is even worse.

What that's saying when you cut through the Corps-ese and check the drawings is that a part of the levee on the Orleans Avenue canal which was supposed to be built in the 1990's was not actually there, and the Corps didn't discover this until 2010.

Reach 18A is here, on the east bank of the canal between Harrison and Filmore Avenues, across from City Park:

It extends 1100 feet. It was supposed to have a stability berm - a bunch of dirt intended to keep the levee and I-wall in place - that extended from about 30 feet from the I-wall to about 90 feet from the I-wall. Indeed, the as-built drawings of the 1997 project - submitted in June, 1998 after the project was completed - do show such a berm on the cross sections:

What the Corps found in May, 2010 was that the berm was considerably short on width. Here's cross sections of Reaches 17 and 18A drawn from data collected during the 2010 survey. Like 18A, Reach 17 was also supposed to have a stability berm:

While the 2010 survey confirmed the existence of the Reach 17 berm extending the proper 60 feet from the levee toe (or about 90 feet from the I-wall), the Reach 18A berm extended only to about 30 feet from the levee toe (or about 60 feet from the I-wall). So a 30 foot by 1100 foot by 2 foot thick section of levee appears to have never been built, or was modified post-construction, or was modified during construction but the modification was left out of the as-built drawings. Then it went hidden in plain sight for possibly 13 years, five of which were after the 2005 levee failures. Additionally, in 1998 the contractor's Corps overseers submitted as-built drawings showing the stability berm as completed, and the Corps Engineering Division accepted them.

As confirmation, the December, 2010 construction drawings for OFC-06, a project which consisted solely of placement of a stability berm along Reach 18A in order to raise the safe water elevation from less than 1 foot to greater than 8 feet, reflect the May, 2010 survey for Reach 18A, showing no existing berm where the "new" berm was to be constructed in 2011:

The very existence of contract OFC-06 - a contract which appears to be designed solely to put in place work which was supposedly done in 1997 - raises all kinds of questions about what was going on in the Corps' offices before August 29, 2005, as well as since the storm. It also shows it may have been pure luck that none of the walls along the Orleans Avenue canal did not fail in 2005.

Summing up

So here's what we learned from the 2011 Orleans Avenue canal remediation QC reports and the new (April, 2011) "Mean Operating Water Level" (MOWL) reports:

1) The Corps went against their own specifications and industry standard - for unknown reasons - and deliberately left unsuitable material, known as "spoils," in the Orleans Avenue canal levee at the conclusion of three days of jet grouting in late June, 2011.

2) When the Corps' contractors dug into the Orleans Avenue levees during the remediation project, or when they tried to place sheet pile or deep soil mixing columns, they ran into obstruction after obstruction for months. Among the pieces of junk found in the levees were two concrete lightpost foundations, many, many cypress tree stumps (some as big as 12 feet), and assorted trash and junk.

3) Only in 2010 did the Corps discover that 1100 feet of the east bank levee between Harrison and Filmore Avenues was missing approximately 30 feet of stability berm which was supposed to have been there since the 1997 construction of the I-walls on that side of the canal. That stretch was remediated in 2011 with a dedicated contract. Nonetheless, it appears the levee along that stretch may have been unfinished for 14 years, including six years post-Federal Flood, despite as built drawings from 1998 showing the complete berm in place.

In the next entry the entry after the next entry, I'll tie up the last three posts in a bow and reveal that the Corps will be doing more remediation work along all three outfall canals in the near future.

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