A City and It\’s General

As the highways begin to descend into the ground and the dull grays of weathered concrete fill the car windows, a chill begins to grow. Visions of a legendary powerhouse that in its glory days produced a vehicle a minute, empowered our troops at the farthest corners of the globe and once provided industry jobs for every one out of six Americans –
this was Detroit.
But if time is any indication of the direction Detroit is heading, things are looking brighter. Commercial businesses continue to find residence in the city through remodeling and new construction. Large lofts now fill old brick industrial sites and new townhouses have begun to spring up in hopes of combating a declining population, even if they’re slow in coming. And of course there is Super Bowl XL, which the National Football League estimates will pour at least $300 million into Michigan’s economy.
Yet as the city’s renaissance seems to be in full swing, one of the state’s largest economic and employment powerhouses is wilting in the Renaissance Center. Faced with one of the worst losses in 2005, General Motors must win back American consumers, and the offensive has already commenced. I think the battle begins with competitive, high-volume products that consumers actually want to drive, such as the retro-inspired 2006 Chevrolet HHR.
The Car to Paint the Town In
While it may look like a belated Chrysler PT Cruiser knock-off, the HHR (Heritage High Roof) actually has family roots on which its contemporary styling is based – a ’49 Chevy Suburban. The overall classic shape and proportions resemble a \’50s milk delivery truck, with large fenders at each corner and a semi-tall height. Its curvaceous but edgy design is warm and appealing. A large chrome grille, door handles, roof rack and mirrors add flare to an important vehicle segment GM has neglected for years.
Great aesthetics are one thing, but being well engineered is the key to bringing the General back to power. Driving my very feminine-colored Chevy around this rude and crude city definitely did not make me feel like a macho bad-ass, but instead a driver who began to see a brighter side of the once industrious town. While its lavender exterior may not have been ideal, its ride is. Steering is responsive and the suspension is firm enough to feel like a great tourer, but it lacks the confidence of a sports tourer. And that’s OK. Detroit is home, and maybe even capital, to potholes and uneven pavement, allowing the HHR’s suspension to excel. The Chevy also features higher positioned seating, allowing for greater visibility, perfect for sightseeing all the highlights of Detroit and many areas people forget about.
But don’t expect this semi-hotrod-looking Chevy to be roasting the tires on Woodward. The larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the HHR produces 174 hp, providing decent acceleration and torque, but fuel economy is a more impressive statistic. While the trip from Lansing to Detroit nears 200 miles of various driving speeds and conditions, the vehicle’s trip computer averaged close to 27.5 mpg – not too shabby for a vehicle that looks exciting, can seat five comfortably, has loads of cargo room and a base sticker price of $15,890.
The return to bold, American styling mixed with great build quality, ride and price is the war strategy GM needs to gain foothold on the territory-stealing imports. Even President Bush told the Wall Street Journal (1/26/06), General Motors needs to develop more appealing products.
The cars America produced in the 1950s, \’60s and \’70s have some of the most distinct, exciting and all-that-is-great-about-Detroit look; the HHR reflects on these glory days. If the General can continue to modernize a product offensive that made it the envy of automakers during that time, the war is theirs. And GM truly will be in the center of Detroit’s automotive renaissance.
XL and the City
With Detroit gearing up for its largest event in years, don’t miss this opportunity to check out many of the city’s great attractions and Super Bowl events – even if you don’t have a ticket!
NFL Experience at Super Bowl XL
Of course you came to the attractions for some football! Walk over to COBO Center to measure your skills against pro athletes in throwing accuracy, speed and even field goal distance. And if you\’d rather cheer on your friends, join one of the cheerleading clinics to improve your skills. Over 50 NFL superstars are expected to attend for autograph sessions and the events take place Feb. 1 – 5. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased ahead of time. (See www.superbowl.com/features/nfl_experience for more information on event times.)
Motown Winter Blast
A great, affordable way to enjoy the Super Bowl festivities without the thousands of dollars needed for a ticket, the Blast will feature more than 60 Detroit music acts performing at four different Motown Blast zones during the week, each zone offering unique activities.
Want to ride in a Ford Model T? Or enjoy figure skating with athletes from the Detroit Skating Club? The Motown Blast Zone center will be located at the new Campus Martius Park and will offer samples of some of the best tastes of Detroit. The Taste of Detroit Zone will be located outside the Hard Rock Café, with over 20 different local restaurants providing samples from a wide variety of cuisine. Other blast zone attractions include a 200-foot sled run piled high right on Detroit streets, dogsled exhibitions, snowshoe courses, snowmobile demos, ice sculptures and much more. Events take place Feb. 2 – 5. (See www.motownwinterblast.com for more event times and locations.)
Campus Martius Park
Across from the Hard Rock Café and in the heart of Detroit, Campus Martius Park offers a Manhattan-style ice skating rink with some of the best new architecture the city has to offer. Admission is $10 with skate rental, $7 without. Even if you are not an ice skater, or do not feel like today is your day to try, enjoy the city center’s Au Bon Pain café. With traditional café umbrella tables around the rink, warm up with an espresso or soup in a bread bowl.
GM Renaissance Center
Don’t be fooled that the RenCen is only for GM Headquarter employees. The cylindrical office grouping is actually home to more than 70 different shops and restaurants. The new lobby and GM Wintergarden offer great views of the Detroit River and are great places to enjoy live music on the outdoor Riverfront Plaza. Here at the RenCen you can catch the high-riding People Mover or one of the latest movies playing at the Riverfront 4 Theatres.
Opa! Home to the best Greek cuisine around and the Greektown Casino, this neighborhood off Monroe Street offers a variety of fare. From shops to bars, this area of the city is the best place to be in the evening hours. Enjoy a plate of flaming saganaki at one of the numerous authentic restaurants like Pegasus Taverna or the oldest on the block, the New Hellas Café. Should you want more variety, check Fishbone’s down the street – they have the best pan-seared scallops.

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One Tank Wonder

What do East Lansing and Volkswagen cars have in common? (Sorry, you won\’t find the answer in a Laffy Taffy wrapper.) It\’s a lack of excitement.
After fall welcome week, the city perpetually loses its allure as reality sets in that one of Gov. Granholm’s “Cool Cities” really isn’t that cool. For the German automaker, sales have tanked as Volkswagen fans, many our age, feel disenfranchised with the new upper-end luxury car image.
[restaurant]College students are always looking for a deal, whether it’s on a car or a night out. Where could students go for an affordable, fun afternoon or evening? Better yet, can two people equipped with $15 a person have a great dinner, see a movie and get dessert? Maybe not in E.L., but in Williamston they could. Being only nine miles east of MSU along Grand River Ave., Williamston is a quaint little town with a few great eateries all within two blocks, specifically the delectable Red Cedar Grill.
The car I took to Williamston, a Salsa Red GLI, is a driver’s car. It reflects on the glory days of the early \’90s Jetta GLI and the final edition fourth generation GLI. With nearly all the detracting chrome removed and aggressive body enhancements added, the sedan looks serious and sophisticated. Large 18” wheels, unique front honeycomb grilles and air dams, along with bright red brake calipers and bi-xenon headlamps in black housing, U-turns this Jetta’s image toward premium Audi and BMW status.
The same can be said for the high-quality interior. It has some of the best fit and finish I have ever seen in a car that starts out at $23,790. Great aluminum accents highlight premium leather, rubber and the occasional plastic. Everything feels great to the touch, including the climate control knobs, flat-bottom steering wheel and dual paddle-shifters mounted on the wheel.
As I head out of E.L. on Grand River, the flashy red sport sedan gets checked out repeatedly by other drivers, especially other Volkswagen owners. I can tell by their expressions this is finally a VW worth getting excited about. If my onlookers could sit shotgun, they would grin even more when the acceleration of the four-cylinder turbo finds torque at almost any speed, rapidly thrusting the moving body. Not only can the fast gear-changing automatic accelerate the GLI quickly, it offers a range of six gears to get nearly 30 mpg around town.
As the eastward drive on Grand River is a straight shot, it takes just a couple ticks of my watch to get from 55 to 115 mph. Only a few minutes separate the MSU community from Williamston. As the speed limit of Grand River reduces, colorful historic buildings begin to rise in the distance. The facades of another era add character to Williamston’s downtown shops, boutiques and restaurants, a relief from the franchise-land that is E.L.
From the Williamston Bucket bar on Main Street, with its small town tavern look and Thursday night karaoke, to the glossy-colored, neon-lit throwback SUN Theatre, Main Street Williamston is resilient from losing its charm unlike most of Greater Lansing.
At the end of the main drag is the Lansing area’s best-kept dining secret, the Red Cedar Grill. With cozy ambiance and casual elegance, the Grill offers its guests a relaxed environment. “We like to think of the dining experience here as uniquely comforting. From our menu items to our service, we put the customer first,\” said manager Peter Hermann.
“Our menu items are comfort food,\” he said. \”Although we are willing to cater our dishes to the most discriminating tastes, our top menu items like mac ‘n\’ cheese in rigatoni over herb-encrusted chicken is something which people love just the way it is,\” said Hermann. Along with the rich three-cheese mac, many pastas, salads, sandwiches and grill items are available. Dishes such as the bbq meatloaf grill sandwich, “black and blue” sirloin steak and blue cheese salad, “wrap of khan” garlic chili roasted chicken with vegetables, cheddar and peanut sauce in a tortilla, range from $8.95 to $12. With all the great menu items, I branched out and tried the special of the day, roasted red pepper and grilled chicken pasta in a cream sauce over spinach fettuccini – amazing.
Depending on your food and drink choices, the Red Cedar Grill is a better example of a higher-end restaurant than you could find at the Eastwood Towne Centre, and you\’ll probably spend less. I know dinners I have had at the new shopping center have easily exceeded $20 just for me alone, and the service is mediocre at best.
The service is outstanding at the Grill. Not only does the staff pay close attention to their guests\’ needs while dining, they are very personable. It is evident through conversation with some they take great pride in the success of the restaurant. The friendship among staff members and their guests is very uncommon these days.
If lighter fair is what you crave, only a few feet away is Ellie’s Country Kitchen, serving country breakfasts, lunches and dinners, many between $5 and $8. Typical menu items range from sandwiches, soups, chicken, steak or fish dinners. On a previous trip to Williamston, I got a patty melt and a pop for $6. It was good, but how can you mess up a patty melt? Service is what you would expect, reminiscent of a coney island, just enough service to get the patrons in and out. But hey, as long as the food’s good and priced like a fast food joint, I can\’t complain.
Although the small restaurant hall is cozy and decorated with local historic farm equipment on the walls and numerous community pictures, my biggest complaint is, for the few tables that make up the restaurant, there is no designation for non-smoking.
Farther down the street there are a couple neat little shops where you can find unique gifts just in time for the holiday season. One store that stood out to my engineering side was Bloom, a gift shop and gallery that reminds me of all the industrial-inspired creations Maggie Carpenter designed in Runaway Bride. Extensive use of mechanical elements such as bedsprings accentuate paintings and other items. [theater]
The locally run SUN theatre truly makes the drive to Williamston worthwhile at $3.50 per person. The only downside is wondering if the movie playing will be something you have yet to see. Movie times for the theatre are at 7:30 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays, and all other days of the week have a single 7:30 p.m. showing. If you decide to come out and see a movie on Thursday night, head over to the Williamston Bucket for karaoke afterward, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
If you didn’t get any homemade cake or pie after dinner at the Red Cedar Grill, round Main Street during your stroll and head south a couple storefronts to Fabiano’s Sweet Shoppe on Williamston Road. Not only can you get a great ice cream sundae, they offer dozens of freshly made chocolates, truffles and fudges.
As I eagerly hop back in the GLI, I re-examine my goal of an enjoyable day for around $30. Was it a success? I think so. With two meals, tip and a shared dessert – totaling about $25 – and another $7 for two movie tickets, that’s quite a lot of bang-for-the-buck. Very cool for the majority of us on a budget. Even Rachel Ray would be proud.
As I re-enter our lackluster college town, I try to keep the depression at bay. With a quick tap of the left paddle-shifter, my emotions rise as if I swallowed an overdose of Zoloft, the acceleration pushing me back into the leather sport seats just as fast if not faster than the smile that spreads across my face.

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Autos and Apples

It is the chilliest day of fall so far, yet I find myself driving down a country road at 80 mph with the top down. The bleak gray sky foreshadows a dreary day, but not this Saturday morning. I have been waiting patiently for the Michigan autumn I love and know so well.[maze]
The past few weeks have given Michiganders an extended summer, bonus time no one is complaining about, but we do enjoy that transitional period before winter. This time is key for apple orchard-goers like myself.
The weekend of my drive marks MSU’s sesquicentennial celebration, but I will not be in East Lansing – I’m journeying to see a special attraction in Romeo is making big news. The drive is over an hour long, but driving is pure enjoyment for me, and with two new Japanese sports cars, what could be better?
The new 2006 Mazda Miata and Mitsubishi Eclipse are two exciting, styled vehicles that return to their roots. The Mazda embraces the simplicity of the first generation; the second generation’s design was cluttered with various add-on style components. The Eclipse looks back to its second generation that became iconic in “The Fast and the Furious.”
In the early 1990s, Japanese automakers started to diversify their product portfolio with more exciting vehicles. Toyota came out with the Ferrari-esque MR2 and Supra. Nissan revitalized the 300ZX and Honda had their affordable yet micro Civic CRX Si. Unfortunately, these sports cars were either impractical, had high price tags and/or were not striking enough to the consumers still largely buying American cars. By the middle of the decade, all were phased out.
Mazda and Mitsubishi, on the other hand, were able to find a niche by using a formula incorporating decent handling and performance, a unique design for the era and most of all, reliability and affordability.
The Miata made it to the American market 16 years ago, reincarnating the vehicle the British offered in the 1960s and ’70s. Simple and compact, with fun in the sun as a no-cost option, it was an instant success.
I can recall the first time my dad brought home the original 1990 Miata in red. Not only was it exciting to be so low to the ground, the four-banger was energetic. The roadster’s light curb weight allowed Dad and I to have a fun afternoon. I guess at the time, anything was better than a ride in the wood-grained caravan.
Mitsubishi’s Eclipse also became a car to which younger Americans seemed to gravitate. A car that, like the Miata, is compact, but offered a turbocharged engine driven to an available all-wheel-drive system. Not only could this car handle well and perform in undesirable weather, it too was affordable.
The Eclipse was also offered in two other Chrysler brand forms, which gave people looking to buy American a similar, if not identical, car to the Eagle Talon and short-lived Plymouth Laser. Only the Mitsubishi’s coupe survived, as DaimlerChrysler believes a small sports coupe market is dead.
MSU students disagree. Earlier in the week I questioned a group of students who replied to an Internet post to be auto critics. Although mostly men responded, the cars proved to be a hit with the college crowd.
Lyman Briggs senior Todd Chawansky would definitely consider the new design: “The front has a nice stance, the grill could be meaner and the clear taillights give the sports coupe a modern appeal,” he said. He also felt the rear seemed “bubbly,” and the GT model, with its 268 horsepower V6, would really be an impressive ride compared to the test car’s 162 4-cylinder. Chawansky most notably liked the interior styling and the seats. “The seat bolsters make me feel in control, while the gauges, knobs and interior handles are very appealing contributing to the overall vehicle design.”
“I really liked the power the 4-cylinder provided. In comparison to my Volkswagen Jetta, the Eclipse seemed quite fast,” said journalism junior Meredith Questel. “I really like the exterior styling as well, but what annoyed me most was the bottom covering of the dash under the steering wheel. My knees would hit the plastic, making for an uncomfortable ride at times.”
[hicks]English senior Brandon Hicks prefers the Eclipse over the Miata. “I barely can fit in the Miata and my knees feel attached to the steering wheel”, said English senior Brandon Hicks. “I do like the interior better of the Mazda, those gauges look sweet and the steering wheel with the shifts look very aggressive.”
Accounting sophomore John Mabry really liked the Miata, boasting the 17-inch aluminum wheels and the clean body lines accentuated by sharp fender flares. “I really wouldn’t change anything, the exterior flows together well. I especially like the high quality materials featured throughout, and the gloss black dashboard with silver vent rings is a smooth touch.”
“I like the front, but the back could be changed to look less like the older Miatas”, said general business pre-law sophomore Brett Zigila. “Everything appears to be really up-to-date, from the neat-looking gauges to the dual exhaust, and when sitting in the cockpit I feel like I’m in the Indy 500.”
Cruising around campus in either car did create onlookers, about an even number with both vehicles. I noticed many students observe the Eclipse’s unusual clear lamps in the front and the rear. Both sets of lamps feature a chrome-reflecting lens with three arms holding it that look somewhat like art deco. Another thing that seemed to attract students was the clear placed across the rear as a design element that could actually produce added down force. I did receive a thumbs-up from another student driving a second-generation model, a good indication current owners embrace the new style.
The Miata looks like an upscale edition of the original. More metallic accents and more dramatic styling which push the new Miata in the direction of its larger brother the RX-8. The styling makes the two-seater look more serious and more distinct in a time when a stylish new rival, the Pontiac Solstice, attempts to steal market share. The day of the Michigan versus Michigan State game had many tailgaters checking out the new bodylines and proportions. The large 17-inch wheels on such a small body create almost a cartoon effect, like dubs on Dodge Neon, an effect that many designers are pushing for.
Leaving East Lansing in the Eclipse, with my girlfriend driving the paddle-shift Miata, the ride toward the metro suburbs was smooth. The Eclipse offers a comfortable ride with its not-too harsh suspension and race styled seats. Leg room is plentiful while visibility is enormous, thanks to an abundance of large side glass. Steering is crisp and responsive, but torque steer creeps in while driving in lower gears. The coupe’s independent suspension allows for better handling and confidence in quick lane changes or curvy back roads.
About halfway through the drive, I really start to appreciate the distinctly styled dashboard and instrument panel. The Eclipse has a refreshing “layered look,” first seen on the ultra exotic Mercedes SLR super car. Silver accents and use of different texture grains set the new Eclipse apart from its predecessors. Its gauges look amazing, thanks to their conically-shaped depth and individual layout. At night, the interior glows in a blue haze not only in the gauges but also over the center instrument panel and floor console, creating an unusual but exciting techno club atmosphere.
Approaching the off ramp on I-75, I really admire what a great value the $19,994 Eclipse GS is. The only option my test car has is the Sun and Sound Package, adding a power sunroof, Rockford Fosgate radio with in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 changer, steering wheel radio controls, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass and outside temperature indicator for an additional $1,500. Factor in the five-year, 60,000-mile warranty and the sports coupe gives you peace of mind as well.
Before reaching our destination, we drive through my hometown of Rochester Hills to pick up a couple friends. Switching cars, I bundle up and retract the roof of the Winning Blue roadster. With the heat on and a smile on my face, we proceeded to Saturday morning’s destination, some 10 to 15 miles away.
North Oakland and Macomb County roads offer some of the hilliest and curvaceous roads in the metro area, allowing the Miata’s great handling characteristics to emerge. The 170 horsepower four-cylinder has eight more than the Eclipse and weighs in at 2,473 lbs., around 1,000 lbs. less, making the Miata extremely responsive and quick. With the combination of firm precision steering and rear-wheel drive, the Mazda loves to corner. The six-speed Activematic transmission is simply amazing, especially with paddle shifting on the steering wheel.
Power can constantly be found through the array of gears when needed, and when cruising, torque is abundant without delay, yet revs are low enough to make the Miata easily achieve over 23 mpg. The dual exhaust pitch a slow, low-pitch whine as I press my thumb into the downshift button and pass my friends gawking in the Eclipse.
With the heat blowing hotter than any ragtop I can remember, the cool autumn air does not seem so bad. Although onlookers may think I’m a fool for riding top-down, the small cabin fits my body like a warm sleeping bag and the cold wind is barely felt.
As I cruise down the last few miles before reaching downtown Romeo, I compare the $22,935 Miata to a BMW Z4 twice as expensive I had driven two days before. The Miata’s steering feels better, the gearbox is more responsive and while driving the car fits like a glove. Although the Japanese import does not have the panache of a twice-as-expensive German roadster, the tan you’ll receive can be achieved at half the price![donut]
As we start to head south down Van Dyke towards 30 Mile Rd., my stomach begins to get more excited for donuts than driving these new cars. Warm cinnamon sugar donuts and fresh apple cider to start the day – yum!
We approach a large hay barrel with a painted Michigan State “S” and I feel as if I never left Spartan territory. As we park the cars, a thick cloud blankets the orchard with the aroma of fresh donuts and sweet apple cider.
Of course the first of any cider mill-goer’s duties should be to get the cider and donuts. As we walk into K’s Kitchen Bakery, an array of fresh donuts, pies and fruit flips drown out the line of excited and hungry orchard-goers.
The real reason we trekked out to Westview Orchards is to see Sparty! Not just the mascot we all love at MSU games, but a five-acre, two-mile cornfield rendition of the mascot we love.
“We were looking for a new design, we looked in to a Soo Locks design, but after coming across MSU’s 150th birthday, it just seemed perfect,” said Katrina Schumacher, the co-owner of Westview Orchards and Cider Mill of Romeo.
Schumacher read about MSU’s sesquicentennial through the Farm Bureau News and asked the school for a design of Sparty to cut into their 188 acres. She adds that although she went to the University of Michigan and received her master’s degree in Medical Surgical Nursing, she often attends agricultural extension programs through MSU. Schumacher said her grandfather received a business degree from MSU and worked with the New York Central Railroad before having to return to take care of the farm.
“It was fun to cut the mascot into the field, and [it] looks amazing from above”, said Schumacher. Like crop circles, Sparty’s body is cut into the corn and stands above candles and text which say, “MSU HAPPY 150TH,” in large, bold letters.
The specially laid corn for the maze is extremely dense, unlike corn planted in rows, making it easier for farm equipment to cut and clear the field. Using GPS and computer software, Westview Orchard digitally mapped the field, and within six hours, the corn maze was cut with great precision.
As we prepared to do the maze, a large John Deere with a trailer came to pick up the 40 or so people anxious to get lost in walls of corn. From little children to grandparents, the maze is a welcoming seasonal event for all. The five-minute ride allowed me to chomp on another hot donut we had in our community bag. After arriving at the maze’s entrance, a punch card is given to all participants. There are six uniquely shaped paper punches, which correspond to six locations hidden throughout the maze. Having all six punches completed upon finishing the maze will enter each participant in a drawing for a DVD player or a Tailgate Party Gift Basket.
While Westview Orchard employees suggest a good hour or so to complete the maze, within 20 minutes I make my way out. Unfortunately, my quickness meant I was only able to get three of the six punch stations. No tailgate basket for me. That’s OK, hand me another donut!
As we excitedly prepared to tackle the back roads home in the glossy red Eclipse and topless Miata, my best friend Nick said, “They should have these places open all year.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Pontchartrain Runneth Over

With 145 miles-per-hour hurricane winds rushing in from the east on the morning of August 29, New Orleans saw more than a sunrise. The wrath of Katrina’s catastrophic category 5 winds was more than the original design of the New Orleans levee system, residents and the government could handle.[no]
Designed to buffer against a fast-moving category 3 hurricane, the levees could not withstand the winds that attacked the Gulf Coast. While the cause of Katrina and the toll it has taken is analyzed and debated, MSU professors and officials delve into the underlying problems Katrina has brought to the surface.
Three hours after initial landfall, Katrina’s winds ebbed to a category 3, but 6-8 feet of water from storm surges began to blanket areas of New Orleans. Eventually, three levee walls failed, leaving many rooftops submerged in the city, whose elevation is nine feet below sea level.
Civil and environmental engineering professor, Milind V. Khire, suggested three possibilities for the levee failures. According to Khire, the impact force of the storm surge may have toppled the embedded concrete I-walls which play a critical role in the earthen structure of the levees. Another suggestion was water seepage might have scoured the down gradient of the levee, resulting in saturation and the collapse of the structure. Khire also suggested while excessive seepage of water could lead to piping at the down gradient ground surface, washing of the levee could have been a result.
The latest catastrophe hits home to Robert Bea, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California Berkley and a former New Orleans resident and hurricane victim. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy, a category 4, destroyed his home and possessions.
“This is an opportunity to make America proud of how it can rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” said Bea. “A concert of approaches should be used that will match the natural and social infrastructure.”
“We don’t know yet if the levees performed well until they were overtopped, and then failed, or if they failed before that,” said Engineering Associate Dean Thomas F. Wolff, who is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ levee assessment team. Wolff will be one of about 15 engineers in the country examining the levee failures in upcoming weeks. “The committee I am on will look into those questions,” he said.
While countries such as Japan and the Netherlands spend millions of dollars on levee building and maintenance to protect their citizens from Mother Nature’s unpredictability, focus on water projects in the United States is proposed, but not highly funded.
“In 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers asked Congress for $500 million to renovate the New Orleans levee system,” American economic history professor, Dr. James Anderson, said. “Unfortunately, President Bush cut funding by 80 percent, roughly leaving only $160 million.”
“Levee maintenance is the national government’s responsibility,” Anderson said. “I believe this is the single greatest failure of national government in response to a national disaster in American history.”
While recommended solutions include providing higher levels of safety to the New Orleans infrastructure by improving hurricane surge development into Lake Pontchartrain and broadening the Mississippi River floodplain and attributed wetlands to provide another means of surge water dissipation, Khire suggests a more technological manipulation of the flood plain terrain. “A multi-cell protection design in combination with super levees would provide New Orleans with defenses against an entire devastation,” said Khire.
The multi-cell design would provide each segment of the city with protection from its neighbor in case of flooding from hurricane surges or intense tropical storms. Super levees, unlike the conventional levees seen in New Orleans, feature wide bases and a gradually steeper slope.
The biggest difference lies in ground elevation on the protected side of the levee. The levees in New Orleans had ground level near the same elevation on both sides. Super levees feature ground nearing the top of the levee, but the ground slopes gradually into a river or exiting system in the distance. This reduces what we currently see in New Orleans – standing water.
“Experience and technology can provide the ways to adequately protect the city of New Orleans,” said Bea. “The major technology is to properly mobilize the will of the American public and government to provide the long-term resources required for rebuilding.”

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