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Smart Levees from Smart Concrete?
Jeremy Faludi, 27 Sep 05

Wouldn't it be good if levees could warn city engineers about their weak points before they got hit by storm waves? Well, if they were made out of smart concrete, they could. We've written before about this invention by Dr. Deborah Chung at University at Buffalo, but PhysOrg just reported on her recent statements about how perfect the invention is for building better levees. As they wrote, "According to Chung, use of smart concrete would increase construction costs by 30 percent, which is a main reason industry has not adopted its use, she says. Of course, reconstruction costs after a disaster can run much higher, she points out."

I think smart concrete is an excellent idea for levees. I do want to point out, however, that levees are only a part (and maybe even a small part) of what will keep the sea out of New Orleans: it needs its buffer zone of swampland back. We've written about this already, but don't take our word for it; way back in 2001, Scientific American [subscription required; full text reprinted here] wrote that swamp restoration was the only way to save New Orleans from storms. "Humankind can't stop the delta's subsidence, and it can't knock down the levees to allow natural river flooding and meandering, because the region is developed. The only realistic solutions, most scientists and engineers agree, are to rebuild the vast marshes so they can absorb high waters and reconnect the barrier islands to cut down surges and protect the renewed marshes from the sea."

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