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Road barriers, sandbags used to plug levee

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Military helicopters on Thursday dropped sandbags into the levee breach that sent floodwaters from Lake Pontchartrain pouring into New Orleans, the state's top transportation official said.

The sandbags are part of a temporary plan aimed at plugging the hole in the levee. The next step: Drop about 250 concrete road barriers into the area and seal the spot where swirling waters toppled the floodwall, said Johnny Bradberry, head of the state Department of Transportation and Development.

The lake's levels have dropped about 2 1/2 feet over the past two days, about equal to the water level in flooded areas on the other side of the levee, Bradberry said. Contractors also had finished building a road that will make it easier to get heavy equipment to the levee.

In a separate project on the canal, contractors used sheet pile walls to try to close the front of the canal, aiming to cut off its connection to the lake.

"In the next day, day and a half, it will be completely isolated from the lake," Bradberry said.

The pilings need to go down more than 30 feet to fully block the flow of water, according to Michael B. Rogers, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Normally, the canal's function is to allow rainwater to be pumped out of the bowl-shaped city and into the lake. Blocking the canal and using the sandbags and concrete to fill breaches is a temporary fix; engineers will eventually have to rebuild at least parts of the canal.

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