NEW ORLEANS—On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the focus is no longer just on the damage done, but also on the progress made since gulf coastal areas of the United States, including New Orleans and parts of Mississippi, were devastated on Aug. 29, 2005.

Superdome

The Superdome may have been a place of refuge for New Orleans residents during the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, but the structure also fell victim to the storm. As of April 1, 2006, the overall cost for repairs to the Superdome resulting from damages sustained during Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $139 million.

Since March, the construction manager, Broadmoor LLC, and 20 subcontractors have been busy restoring, repairing, and improving the Superdome. According to the Superdome website (www.superdome.com), the scope of work has been described as unprecedented in the history of American public-assembly facilities, encompassing the arena’s 1.9 million square feet of interior space.

Although the roof sustained considerable damage, and required replacement of 440,000 square feet of steel panels, the facility suffered no structural damage, according to the analysis performed by Ellerbe Becket that was released in a report on Dec. 13, 2005. Aside from the minor damage to the building’s exterior cladding, the bulk of the damage was to the interior finishes, including a portion of the ceiling tiles and the wallboard, with a total loss of all furnishings and carpet.

According to the involved contractors, the Louisiana Superdome project is running on schedule, and because of the accelerated planning, it should be "football-ready" for the Sept. 25 reopening game.

Levees

By the start of this year’s hurricane season on June 1, 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) had achieved at least a pre-Katrina flood and storm level protection by repairing and restoring 169 miles of Mississippi River and New Orleans area levees and floodwalls. To improve the levee protection system along the coast, the Corps is raising levee heights, in some cases as much as 7 feet, and upgrading or replacing existing flood I-walls with improved designs. According to the Corps, these improvements will provide 100-year protection to about 98 percent of the population in the New Orleans area.

Working with city, state, and other federal agencies, the Corps will continue to upgrade New Orleans flood and storm protection through 2010. According to the Corps’ timeline, restoration of undamaged and subsided areas and previously unconstructed portions of authorized projects will be completed between June 1, 2006 and September 2007. December 2007 will mark completion of the final technical report that analyzes higher levels of protection. In 2010, the levees’ flood protection as meeting the National Flood Insurance Program’s 100-year protection level will be certified, as well as additional improvements, such as permanent closure and pumping stations at the outfall canals; navigable floodgates to protect the industrial canal; storm-proofing of existing pump stations; selective armoring of levees; incorporating a portion of non-federal levee in Plaquemines Parish; and restoring ecosystems.

Infrastructure

Highways and bridges along the Gulf Coast were ravaged during Hurricane Katrina, resulting in the need to repair, and improve, the vital infrastructure. Ground was recently broken for the new I-10 Twin Span Bridge, which will replace the Twin Span Bridge between New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana. According to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, it will be the largest public works project in the history of Louisiana at a cost of $803 million. To allow the bridge to withstand a much higher storm surge, it will have an elevation of 30 feet—21 feet higher than the old bridge.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) awarded a $266.8 million bridge replacement contract to Granite Construction Company, California, in joint venture with Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta, to replace the Bay St. Louis Bridge, which crosses U.S. 90.

In December’s supplemental appropriations bill, Congress made a total of $2.75 billion available for the Federal Highway Administration’s "Emergency Relief Program." Although Mississippi will not receive the entire amount, the funds will pay for reconstruction of federal highways in the state.

Homes

According to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Hurricane Katrina left behind more than 45 million cubic yards of debris in the state. As of June 19, 2006, 97 percent of the debris had been removed and more than 103,000 Mississippi residents occupied 38,328 temporary housing units. Approximately 16,000 applications were submitted during Phase I of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Homeowner’s Assistance Program, designed to provide financial assistance to those homeowners outside the flood plain whose homeowner’s insurance did not cover structural flood damage.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) has stated that in order for residents to be eligible for its State Homeowner Assistance plan, all reconstruction work must meet or exceed the latest available Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) and meet the legal requirements of the State Uniform Construction Code. FEMA has previously stated that these advisories must be used for any rebuilding projects using certain FEMA grant dollars, thus the advisories apply to both public infrastructure projects as well as mitigation grants.

In ABFEs issued in April for Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Bernard parishes, as well as portions of Plaquemines and St. Charles parishes in southern Louisiana, FEMA recommended that "substantially damaged homes and businesses protected by levees elevate 3 feet, or follow what is shown on the current effective flood insurance rate map (FIRM), whichever is higher." FEMA said that its flood-recovery guidance takes into account storm data, as well as coastal land loss, degradation of coastal barriers, and subsidence. The ABFEs, however, are interim products while new, preliminary FIRMs are being completed.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently granted an additional $4.2 billion in emergency funding to Louisiana to support its long-term recovery from last year’s hurricanes. The emergency funding is provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. Last January, HUD allocated $11.5 billion in CDBG funding among five Gulf Coast states, including $6.2 billion to Louisiana. HUD also invited Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas to detail their unmet housing and community development needs to assist the Department in determining how to allocate another $1 billion.

The funding allocated to Louisiana, and the remaining $1 billion to be allocated throughout the Gulf Coast, will help rebuild homes, restore vital infrastructure, and revitalize devastated communities.