Beginning in 2005, the U.S. Congress allocated
US$14.6 billion for a comprehensive hurricane and
storm damage risk reduction system to protect
New Orleans—including US$1.4 billion for the
LBSB project. Though construction wouldn’t be
completed until 2012, Congress mandated that the
project had to be able to protect against 100-year
storm surges by 2011.
Army Corps projects have often been incrementally funded, leading to lost time and wasted
money as construction is delayed and already-built
structures have to be re-evaluated, Mr. Ragolia
explains. The fact that the project was fully funded
from the outset and received steady support from
two successive U.S. presidential administrations
proved crucial for delivering the expedited project
In April 2008, the Army Corps awarded general
contractor Shaw Group (later acquired by Chicago
In December 2013, when the Army Corps
handed the new facility off to the State of Louisi-
ana to manage, the LBSB’s final cost was US$1.3
billion—US$100 million under budget.
“We were changing the design as
we were building. We would find
a condition where we needed
to change alignment or create a
more robust foundation.”
After one year in the initial design phase, in May 2009 Mr. Ragolia
and his team drove the first of several concrete piles into Lake Borgne to serve as the barrier’s foundation. Initially, planning engineers
were tempted to dump a bunch of stone in the lake and build a
run-of-the-mill levee. (Levees are earthen structures, while barriers are typically concrete.) But with the 2011 milestone looming,
the team arrived at the idea of a precast mold for the barrier since
it could more quickly be created off-site and then transported via
barge. Getting the barrier’s biggest component into the ground as
quickly as possible ultimately saved months, Mr. Ragolia notes.
To support the Shaw Group, three subcontractors were
brought in. “Equipment, manpower, management—each had their
own expertise,” Mr. Ragolia says.
Precast concrete was used, since it could
more quickly be created off-site and
then transported via barge.
Crews construct the barge
for the surge barrier.