The 17th St. Canal Plaque
By: Patrap , 2:21 AM GMT on August 17, 2010
by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Posted on August 21, 2010 at 4:03 PM
Updated yesterday at 6:02 PM
Under the relentless sun, Roy Arrigo worked with several others to lay the foundation for a new chapter in an often-told story.
Like thousands of others in the city, Arrigo's Lakeview home suffered major damage during the breach at 17th Street Canal on August 29, 2005.
"We had seven feet in the house and, being so close to the breach, we had water in the house for over a month," he said.
Five years later, part of that communal story will be told in brown and white, on a state-approved historical plaque. The non-profit organization Levees.org paid nearly $2,000 to get one.
"We feel it's a bit of a travesty that citizens and people from America come to New Orleans, wanting to know what happened, wanting to find out what happened. They drive down here and there's really nothing other than bareness. There's no information for them," said Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal.
While the new plaque still sits in its box, it will be officially unveiled on Monday, at the corner of Bellaire Drive and Stafford Place-- right where the floodwall gave way.
The plaque reads, in part: "On August 29th, 2005, a federal floodwall atop a levee on the 17th Street Canal... gave way here causing flooding that killed hundreds. This breach was one of 50 ruptures in the Federal Flood Protection System that occurred that day."
"The text for the plaque was approved by the state historic preservation office. Every syllable had to be documented. We had to prove everything," Rosenthal said. "This is not an opinion. This is fact."
The group also needed permission from several city and federal agencies to get the plaque placed where it needed to be.
"We had to get permission from Parks and Parkways. We had to go through Sewerage and Water Board. We had to go through the traffic division," Rosenthal said. "We even had to get permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, because they bought all the property directly behind the spot. And they were cooperative and they did grant us approval to do that."
It took years to get to this point. In the meantime, Levees.org put up a temporary plaque, with similar text, on private property nearby. The private property belongs to Roy Arrigo, who sees tour buses and visitors stop by the site on a daily basis.
"I think that it's a very important message to get out there and to correct," Arrigo said. "I travel with my job and I know a lot of the country has a lot of misconceptions about what happened here."
Rosenthal said there are plans to eventually have similar historic plaques placed at breach sites across the city and in St. Bernard Parish. For more information on how communities and neighborhoods can get involved, go to Levees.org
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