SALEM — For the first time during Hurricane Isaac, the $15 billion “Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System,” as the massive system of levees, flood walls, surge barriers and control gates is called, was put to the test.
While there was flooding in Plaquemines Parish last week, the system put in place by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers passed the test. Bioengineering Group, headquartered in Salem, along with a joint venture partner, ARCADIS, were at the forefront of evaluating, designing, and providing construction management and environmental compliance services for what was the single largest civil works projects in the country, according to an article CEO Wendi Goldsmith helped write for the publication The Military Engineer.
Goldsmith said the systems put in place in New Orleans use man-made and natural systems to lessen storm and flood damage, but they had never been put to the test before Hurricane Isaac lumbered ashore on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina last week.
Goldsmith spoke about her reaction to how New Orleans fared, with news that the federal system held, while levees in Plaquemines Parish did not. Goldsmith said it wasn’t only the design and the scale of the New Orleans project that was unprecedented, but the way in which various entities came together to design and build the system.
“This is not done alone,” Goldsmith said, “certainly not done by me. It involved many dedicated and talented team members from the firm, as well as the numerous other engineering companies and government representatives who worked in collaboration to an unprecedented level.” Many of those guiding this project are women, Goldsmith noted.
What was the reaction among those who built the storm systems in New Orleans to Hurricane Isaac?
We didn’t break a sweat about this. ... Because to us, we feel we’ve been involved in the planning, in the engineering, in the environmental process of what had been a multibillion sculpture that didn’t do anything yet ... Now we are over what we consider the finish line, the part that we show the system is functioning.