Gov. John Bel Edwards joined the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other state, local, and federal officials to celebrate the completion of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) that will defend the Greater New Orleans area against severe storms, including those with a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year.

“The HSDRRS is the largest civil works project in the Corps’ history and is the result of nearly two decades of hard work and collaboration at the local, state, and federal level,” said Gov. Edwards. “The people of New Orleans have experienced the worst Mother Nature has to offer, and with the completion of the system, they’ll be protected by the best of engineering, design, and hurricane protection.”

Following Hurricane Katrina, Congress provided $14.5 billion which included construction of a system that will provide the Greater New Orleans area with a system that will defend against a storm surge that had a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year as well as be resilient to larger storms. The full up-front funding allowed USACE to apply the most current and up-to-date science and engineering during design and construction.

“Delivering this system was the number one domestic priority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We leveraged the capabilities and resources of the entire agency to deliver Congress and the Administration’s commitment to the people of greater New Orleans.”

Upon completion of construction, the federal government has fully turned the completed system over to Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for operation and maintenance.

“This is a monumental day for Louisiana,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline. “In the past year, the state’s coastal program has made historic investments in restoration and hurricane protection across South Louisiana, and the turnover of the HSDRRS is yet another critical step in this effort. With its completion, nearly a million people and over $170 billion in assets are better protected.”

The system had been constructed to the elevations necessary to provide the 1-percent storm surge level of risk reduction by 2011. Since then, USACE and its partners focused on building sustainable features, such as the three Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps, and incorporating resiliency against larger storms through features like armoring. Armoring prevents erosion and scouring that could threaten the structural integrity of the system in the event of an overtopping.

“We know that eventually we will face a surge greater than the 1-percent elevations so we designed the HSDRRS to be overtopped,” said Col. Stephen Murphy, commander of the USACE New Orleans District. “With all of the armoring now in place, this system enters the 2022 Hurricane Season stronger than it has ever been.”

Structural approaches such as the HSDRRS are only one component of the overall hurricane preparedness plan. Equally important are the local, state and federal emergency response plans that are rehearsed and coordinated throughout the year.

As the region enters the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the HSDRRS should never be considered a life safety system. Although the system is designed to be resilient to storms larger than its design, the system cannot eliminate risk for those that live and work behind the system.  Residents have an important role in further buying down this risk. Just as the federal, state and local emergency teams practice, train and collaborate so that they are ready and prepared to implement their plans, residents should develop and practice their own emergency preparedness plan.  This personal plan must include staying closely informed during an event and being fully prepared to evacuate if the order is directed.

For more information on the Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, please visit the USACE New Orleans District website at New Orleans District > Missions > HSDRRS (army.mil).