National expert at AU April 5 to discuss New Orleans levee failures during Katrina

AUBURN – Lawrence H. Roth, deputy executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, will be at AU on Thursday, April 5, at 4 p.m., in 2370 Haley Center, to discuss the levee failures after Hurricane Katrina. His focus will be “The New Orleans Levees: The Worst Engineering Catastrophe in U.S. History – What Went Wrong and Why.”

Roth led the ASCE’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He serves as the chief of staff and project manager for ASCE’s External Review Panel, which was assembled to provide an independent assessment of the performance evaluation of the New Orleans hurricane protection system that is being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force. In his talk, Roth will summarize the findings and conclusions of the panel.

According to Roth, much of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina was caused not by the storm itself, but by a series of engineering and engineering-related policy failures. Roth contends the levees and floodwalls were breached because of a combination of unfortunate choices and decisions, made over many years, at almost all levels of responsibility. Roth will describe other key additional failures that strongly contributed to the levee failures.

Roth says the lessons learned from Katrina go beyond the issues in southeast Louisiana. He will discuss how these lessons should cause all civil engineers to bring about shifts in the way they approach projects that impact public health, safety and welfare. These shifts include developing a better understanding of risk and safety; reevaluating and fixing hurricane- and flood-protection systems throughout the United States; and demanding engineering quality.

Roth joined ASCE after a 30-year career in a consulting practice where he was a nationally recognized leader in civil and geotechnical engineering. During his years in practice, he specialized in geotechnical engineering for design and construction of water resource projects including dams and canals. Roth earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and serves on the department’s visiting committee.

Contact: Cheryl Cobb, (334) 844-2220 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (