Hurricane Katrina

Rebuilding the New Orleans Region: Infrastructure Systems and Technology Innovation A Two Day Forum


September 24-26, 2006
New Orleans, Louisiana

Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. gulf coast on August 29, 2005. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in United States history, with more than 1,300 fatalities, and caused the relocation of nearly 1 million gulf coast residents. Katrina's high winds and storm surge inflicted severe damage to coastal regions from eastern Louisiana to Alabama, but the greatest destruction occurred in the City of New Orleans due to failures in the New Orleans levee system. The flooding caused by the levee failures produced a level of destruction that is unprecedented in United States history. Today, there are significant questions regarding the future of New Orleans and its surrounding region.  Nationally, debate centers on the need to reconstruct New Orleans. Central to this debate is the ability to bring business, jobs and investment to a region whose infrastructure is severely damaged and not yet protected against future flooding. The overarching objective is to contribute to the rebuilding of New Orleans and its surrounding region through convening a forum of diverse, multidisciplinary experts who will place emphasis on infrastructure systems and the potential for applications of new technology to facilitate reconstruction efforts.

While the challenges are multi-faceted, it is clear that the role of engineering systems and technology will be significant. Without doubt, the physical, social and economic landscape of a reconstructed New Orleans region will hinge on the investments made in infrastructure (sanitation and water systems, power, communications, information technology, flood protection, transportation, and essential facilities) and in the interplay of these technologically-based systems with social, economic and political systems. Much of the infrastructure will be, or should be, re-engineered to ensure that the city is economically sustainable, secure for investment, safe for its residents, and able to withstand future natural disasters. In addition, the investment strategies adopted and the infrastructure technologies applied could present a global example of how a 21st century city can grow and adapt to its surrounding environment. We have an opportunity to glean lessons from this tragedy, but also to employ technology in concert with forward looking public policy to create a new and prosperous New Orleans, while at the same time respecting the history and culture of the region. Specific objectives of this forum include:

  1. To convene a multidisciplinary group of world-class experts capable of addressing the broad infrastructure systems needs of New Orleans and the region within a social, economic and public policy context
  2. To identify short-term and long-term actions, including technology innovation, needed to assist and guide the rebuilding efforts.
  3. To demonstrate, in a disaster-recovery context, the important linkage between infrastructure and community rebuilding, including such factors as land use, heritage preservation, and broader community goals.
  4. To identify technology-related lessons learned from the Katrina experience that can be applied in other locations and for other natural disaster/infrastructure disruptions.
  5. To document and disseminate the discussions and findings of the forum to provide an informed context for various stakeholders who will engage in setting priorities and public policies for rebuilding New Orleans through:
    1. Applying interactive web-based information technology that allows participants to communicate before, during and after the forum in a manner that insures a continuing dialogue among major stakeholders.
    2. Developing a report that can be distributed to stakeholders and interested parties.
    3. Creating a base for developing educational modules for use by students.