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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 18:01 GMT
Rebuilding New Orleans
The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, is due to decide on whether to accept or reject reconstruction plans drawn up by the Bringing New Orleans Back Commission.

The committee has spent several months drawing up plans on how to rebuild and revitalise housing, business and transport in the flood-devastated city.

Their report also outlines plans for how levees and flood defences will be shored up and improved to prevent large-scale floods happening again.


The US Army Corps of Engineers aims to have temporary repairs to New Orleans flood defences complete by June, when the next hurricane season starts.

The Bush administration has promised some $3.1bn (1.7bn) towards repairs and limited improvements of flood defences over the next few years.

Many local officials want the city's storm protection system upgraded to the extent that it can withstand a Category 5 storm - the strongest possible hurricane.

Patched up levee
Army engineers are working to effect temporary repairs

The commission calls for a "comprehensive system with multiple lines of defence to protect the city".

It outlines a need for perimeter levees, improved pumping system, flood gates, internal levees with separate pumps, and the restoration of coastal wetlands to absorb the worst of future storm surges.

A storm barrier would be installed on 17th Street Canal, which suffered a 465ft (141 metres) wide breach in its floodwalls in the aftermath of Katrina causing some of the worst flooding.

The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was built in the 1960s to allow ships easier access to the Gulf of Mexico via the Port of New Orleans.

However, what was once a 300ft (91 metres) wide channel has been expanded to a width of some 3,000ft, (914 metres) through a combination of the natural action of passing ships and deliberate widening to allow larger vessels to use it.

This canal allowed Katrina's storm surge to penetrate the heart of the city. Reducing its size - or closing it altogether - are being actively considered.


The commission report divides the city into three types of area according to severity of flood damage.

Immediate Opportunity Areas have little or no flood damage. The report recommends that reconstruction can begin there immediately under existing planning regulations. To assist with recovery, city authorities will:

  • Identify vacant and underused property for new construction
  • Issue planning permits for repairs and construction of new housing
  • Provide and support community, cultural facilities and services
  • Address the immediate needs of schools and hospitals

    Neighbourhood Planning Areas contain severely damaged properties. The report suggests that a full planning and consultation process takes place to decide on the future of each, beginning on 20 February.

    New Orleans resident
    Severely damaged areas must prove their viability

  • Residents and officials including urban planners, historic preservation experts and environmental health consultants will work together to produce a redevelopment plan.
  • The number of residents committed to returning, population needed to support facilities and the existing history and character will determine the scope and scale of redevelopment in each area
  • The committee has set a suggested date of 20 May to complete the consultation stage

    Infill Development Zones are private and publicly-owned land containing run-down properties on high ground which can be developed for housing and commercial use.

    Within these are Target Development Areas, where the committee specifically recommends that "financially responsible" developers are found to build large numbers of houses as a priority.

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