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Costly New Orleans Levee Repairs May Be Inadequate

In the first month of a new hurricane season, the Army Corps of Engineers has completed almost $800 million in repairs to the New Orleans levee system, repairs some say still leave the battered city vulnerable.

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  • SINGER:

    Baby, don't you want to go…

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour Correspondent:

    J.D. Hill is no longer singing the Katrina blues.

  • J.D. HILL, Musician (singing):

    … back to that same, old place, my big, bad, brand-new blue house…

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    After months of temporary housing, he's now a homeowner for the first time in his life.

  • J.D. HILL:

    Here in New Orleans, to have your own house, that means you're the king of the castle. I look around here in these nice rooms, my very first house, and three-bedroom house, and it just aches me in my heart.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Hill is a New Orleans displaced musician who recently got a new house built by volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing.

    When construction is complete on Musicians Village, there will be 81 private homes built in the city's Upper Ninth Ward, which remains mostly abandoned today.

    Last year, floodwater from levee breaches just blocks away devastated the whole east side of New Orleans. Now, in the first month of a new hurricane season, the Army Corps of Engineers that built the levees has almost completed $800 million in repairs.

    Working seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the corps has built a massive new concrete wall along the canal that separates the Upper and Lower Ninth Wards. At two other sites where the levees failed, big floodgates are being installed. Corps officials recently surveyed the work.

    MAJ. GEN. RONALD JOHNSON, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: I can tell you that we have met our objective to repair the damage to the 169 miles of the 350-mile system, hurricane protection system, which includes the levees and the floodwalls.

    I think New Orleans can be confident in its hurricane protection system because it is better and it is stronger.

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