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NO Levees

NO Levees

NO Levees

(OP)
What is the current thinking on levee design as compared to small earthen dams or dikes around fish ponds?

Here in the Florida Panhandle if you have an earthen dam or dike any sign of a tree or brush on the top or downstream side of same will immediately raise the hackles of the state inspectors.  

Looking at the pictures of the levees I see all type of large vegetation on the inside slope.  

RE: NO Levees

you are right - deep rooted trees should not be allowed on an embankment which retains water!  Many of the "levees" around New Orleans are probably better classified as dams or dikes IMHO.  A levee is normally constructed along the edge of a river where water is expected to flow along the line of the levee.  But they are not designed to impound water.  If they had been designed as a dam, they should have had emergency spillways and also and emergency action plan - as most every small dam in the country requires.  A spillway might have allowed water to flow over the flood walls without causing a complete breach in the embankment from occuring.  And an emergency action plan with monitoring of the levee might have provided more warning so that repair crews could have possibly prevented the breach.

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