Sunday, January 15, 2006

More Wetlands, More Levees, More Rebuilding

A lot of people are calling for a levee system that will protect the city from a Category 5 hurricane. Then they are saying we should not rebuild every part of New Orleans.

If we have an effective levee system, why can’t we rebuild everywhere?

Also, if you say that New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward should become green space or marshes, you are also saying that St. Bernard Parish and Lower Plaquemines should become green space or marshes. I am not prepared to say any of that.

Instead of thinking 4 months ahead, we need to be thinking 40 years ahead. We have to think generations ahead.

Levees aren’t enough. We need our wetlands back, our defensive line. The levees are our linebackers. And, yes, I would prefer to have the Dome Patrol back there mopping up what the wetlands can’t stop. A strong secondary would be nice, too, maybe in the form of a smart rebuilding plan – but one that includes everyone.

And I am adamant about including everyone. If people can’t come back in four months, we give them 12 months. If they can’t come back in 12 months, we give them 24 months. If they can’t come back in the long term, we set up a “right of return” policy for future generations. That way their family retains the right to their land if it is ever developed in the future.

(Warning: The following scenario assumes a very positive population growth for New Orleans over the next 50 or so years. Obviously, I think it is possible because I wrote it, but many readers will no doubt disagree.)

We seem to be preparing for a city of 250,000 people with a lot of green space where people used to live. In the future, when that 250,000 grows to 300,000, then 350,000, and then 400,000 – because you know people want to live here – will we then start building on that green space?

You bet we will. I would hate to have to explain to the world why we kicked a family off of their land right after a catastrophic flood destroyed everything they owned so that in the future a developer could make millions of dollars selling it to someone else.

Here’s the other thing. Black residents of New Orleans were more impacted by the flooding than white residents – over three quarters of the black residents received *more than* minimal flooding as opposed to half of the city’s white residents. I need not remind you that there are many more black residents in New Orleans than white residents. The areas most likely to not be rebuilt, with the exception of Lakeview, are majority black. If land is taken away from a large group (both in real numbers and percentages) of black residents – compared to a much smaller group of white residents – and then sold away in the future… well, that just ain’t right.

Right now, I feel like everyone should be allowed to rebuild and the city should accommodate them. Then, allow time for the city to adapt to the new layout and figure out the best way to serve its residents.

In the meantime, wetlands and levees, wetlands and levees, wetlands and levees…


ashley said...

Man, I honestly think that Cat 3 levees are fine. If they are really Cat 3.

And I just get so.....mad. Let's rebuild everywhere when we get levees that work. What, the lower 9th and Chalmette will become green spaces? Get real.

Bingo Man said...

We need to start with gettting the levees repaird first, one step at a time. Then we need to be sure the repairs are sufficient for Cat 3, then we need to get something in place for Cat 5. Blaming just confuses the issue that we need stronger levees period, to protect all of us in the area no matter where or what. Join together and do not drive apart, one voice one message, build stronger levees.

Tim said...

Part of my push for significant improvement of the levees comes from the scientific realization that nothing is perfect. If we aim for "Cat 3" levees, some parts of the system will be slightly less, while other parts will be exactly "Cat 3" and other parts will be slightly better. We'll get a nice bell curve distribution centered on "Cat 3" level of protection. If we aim higher, we move the curve out to "Cat 5," which will give us the best chance for "Cat 3" protection. Does that make sense?

da po' boy said...

Sure, that makes sense. I think beefed up levees are the way to go, along with restored wetlands. The city can be rebuilt to take a little flooding, for example the flooding that comes from the overtopping of the levees. But I don't want just a few people to be allowed to return to their homes to partake in the relative safety of better levees. With a hurricane-safe levee plan, we can rebuild most if not all of southeastern Louisiana.

Schroeder said...

Right on. Everyone should be allowed to come back. I agree about levees requiring coastal restoration. Levees alone would be a terrifying prospect. We need the marshes to absorb the energy and surge.