The Flood Control Act of 1965, Title II of Pub.L. 89-298, was enacted on October 27, 1965, by the 89th Congress and authorized the United States Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct numerous flood control projects including the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity, Louisiana Hurricane Protection Project in the New Orleans region of south Louisiana.
Sec 201 of the Act authorized the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers (of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) to design and construct any water resource development project, including navigation, flood control, and shore protection if the cost of any single project did not exceed $10 million. Any such project was subject to local cost sharing in the same manner as larger projects.
Sec 208 of the Act authorized the Corps of Engineers to conduct surveys for flood control and allied purposes, to include drainage and channel improvements.
The pre-Katrina Orleans Levee District (OLD), governed by the Orleans Levee Board (OLB), owned considerable assets, mainly real estate, a peculiarity that stems from its history. In the early twentieth century, the OLD reclaimed a portion of Lake Pontchartrain, a 24-mile wide lake north of New Orleans. The OLD developed the land and sold it to raise money to build and improve levees. The Lake Vista, Lake Oaks, Lake Terrace, East and West Lakeshore subdivisions and other property between Robert E. Lee Blvd and Lake Pontchartrain are all examples of these developed properties. The OLD also owned a marina and a small commercial airport on a man-made peninsula created from dredged material in the early 1930s.
In the Flood Control Act of 1965--legislation enacted in response to losses exceeding $1 billion (including multiple levee failures) during Hurricane Betsy--Congress directed the Corps, from then forward, to be responsible for design and construction of the hurricane flood protection system enveloping New Orleans. The Corps was ordered to work in consultation with the OLD which became the local sponsor for the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection Project.
Congress directed the corps build a flood protection system to protect south Louisiana from the worst storms characteristic of the region. The corps began developing the storm model in 1959, called the Standard Project Hurricane (SPH). This model was not subsequently adjusted, despite the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the successor agency to the Weather Bureau) recommending increasing the strength of the model: the Corps did not change its construction plans. The local levee boards retained the role of maintenance once the projects were complete. When authorized, this mandate was projected to take 13 years to complete. When Katrina struck in 2005, the project was between 60-90% complete and the projected date of completion was estimated to be 2015.
Details of the congressional mandate are defined in the Government Accountability Office's testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on September 28, 2005. The opening paragraph of the twelve page report reads:
"Congress first authorized the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity, Louisiana Hurricane Protection Project in the Flood Control Act of 1965. The project was to construct a series of control structures, concrete floodwalls, and levees to provide hurricane protection to areas around Lake Pontchartrain. The project, when designed, was expected to take about 13 years to complete and cost about $85 million. Although federally authorized, it was a joint federal, state, and local effort."
In 2005, the estimated cost of construction for the completed project is $738 million with the federal share being $528 million and the local share $210 million. The initial scope of the project was to provide hurricane protection to areas around the lake in the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and St. Charles with the federal government paying 70 percent of the costs and the state and local interests paying 30 percent, the typical cost-share arrangement.
Sec 204 of the Act authorized projects in the following locations:
Sec 216 of the Act authorized the Corps of Engineers to study the water and wastewater quality of various bodies of water in the San Francisco Bay area.