How soon do you want to feel safe from a 500-year storm?

That’s the $300 million question a local flood protection authority is now struggling with.

The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to place armoring — synthetic mats that reinforce the grass — on the land side of the new levees it has built around metropolitan New Orleans. That move, long sought by the state, would improve — from the 100-year-storm level to the 500-year-storm level — the levees’ resistance to collapsing if they are overtopped by storm surge. The Corps says it expects to spend about $300 million on the project.

But the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East is still evaluating a report that suggests the new levees are lower than they should be even for a 100-year storm, defined as a hurricane that has a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any given year.

This story originally appeared in The Lens, an independent, nonprofit newsroom serving New Orleans. Continue reading full story here.