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UH Manoa College of Engineering faculty leads New Orleans' levee assessment for national civil engineering organization

University of Hawaiʻi
Peter Nicholson, (808) 956-2378
College of Engineering
Arlene Abiang, (808) 956-5637
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Oct 13, 2005

Dr. Peter Nicholson, associate professor and graduate chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UH Mānoa, has been selected by the American Civil Engineering Society‘s Geo-Institute to head up an assessment team to study, analyze, make recommendations and report on the New Orleans‘ levee system in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The study team has been working cooperatively with the Army Corps of Engineers, a NSF-sponsored team and other ASCE institutes.

Nicholson recently returned from a research trip to New Orleans where he led a team of engineers in assessing the performance and condition of the levee system. The team studied a large number of levees and numerous breaches. While some were found to be overtopped and damaged by the hurricane, many miles of levees still performed satisfactorily. Evidence of significant overtopping was found at a number of sites along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal, among other locations.

"Initial data gathered from the trip have helped us to gain a better understanding of how the levees performed, but further data collection, testing and analysis is required before recommendations can be made to provide future protection for the residents of New Orleans and elsewhere in the nation," explained Nicholson during a press conference held by the ACES last Friday.

With the aid of the Corps of Engineers who will provide additional background documentation and the results of their own ongoing field investigations, the team expects to issue an interim report in a month with a more detailed report to follow.

"In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there are still many questions to be answered," said Nicholson. "It is far too early to draw conclusions about exactly how and why the levee failures occurred. Our investigation is ongoing and we hope that our testing and analyses will answer these questions conclusively."

Nicholson is the chair of the ASCE‘s Geo-Institute committee on Embankments, Dams and Slopes, of which he has been an active member for 12 years. He has nearly 20 years of experience in the design, assessment and evaluations of dams and levees in Hawaiʻi, California and Utah.

Nicholson has also been referred by the ASCE‘s national headquarters for a number of media interviews on the levee situation in which he has participated over several days following hurricane Katrina.

About the ASCE Geo-Institute

The Geo-Institute (G-I) is a specialty organization focused on the geo—industry. Created by the American Society of Civil Engineers in October 1996, the more than 9,700 members and 36 member organizations now include scientists, engineers, technologists, and organizations interested in improving the environment, mitigating natural hazards, and economically constructing engineered facilities.