Monday, January 23, 2006

Science!

This Scientific American article on the problems facing engineers as they come up with a way to protect southern Louisiana from flooding is a good overview:

The Mississippi Delta, home to 2.2 million, represents the worst-case scenario. It is sinking and losing wetlands faster than almost any place on earth and faces the most hurricanes annually. The record sea surge that prompted the Netherlands and Britain to erect barriers was 15 feet; Katrina's peaked at 28 feet.
The article points out that engineers had and have plans that could work, they just never received adequate funding to implement them.

It also stresses the need for engineers to consult researchers and experts in other disciplines and integrate their suggestions for a better hurricane protection system, actually going one step further and consulting the experts for them:
Three strategies emerged: a tight ring around the New Orleans metropolitan area alone; a comprehensive, 440-mile levee system that would snake from the Mississippi border halfway to Texas but lie only partway to the shoreline, leaving the coast for lost; and an outer shield around the region's perimeter, such as the one in the Netherlands, which would spare every locale. The ring and comprehensive plans would inevitably leave some people "outside the wall." All three plans include gates of some kind that are not now in place.
The “tight ring” around only the GNO area amuses me. The “leaving the coast for lost” part scares me. This, however, I like:
Although each approach has its proponents, the parties agree on one thing: critics who say it is foolish to rebuild in such a vulnerable place are missing the big picture. In addition to being a cultural center, "the Gulf Coast is the economic engine that drives the country," Bahr declares. "We can't possibly abandon it." The delta produces one fifth of the country's oil, one quarter of its natural gas, and one third of its seafood. Trillions of dollars of goods and crops flow through the ports there. These activities require extensive infrastructure and tens of thousands of employees who cannot live in temporary trailers or in homes two hours away.
Label me convinced.

2 comments:

bayoustjohndavid said...

The article said that the Katrina may have rendered Coast 2050 and LCA obsolete,but it didn't give any detail. I remember reading something in the T/P about hurricane damage to wetlands not being as permanent or even repairing itself. I couldn't understand why the article just left it at that. W/out Coast 2050, or something like it, people like Kusky are essentially correct, much as I hate to say it.

da po' boy said...

I think the old plans are obsolete because the geography of the wetlands has changed, not because the wetlands can't be saved. I took a boat ride around the Lower Plaquemines wetlands and was shown where canals were now filled in with uprooted marsh grass. This is bad on two levels. The uprooted marsh grass won't stay where it landed and it isn't where it was. It will just wash away.
Once the new wetlands is mapped out, a new Coast 2060 plan can be drawn up. Amd remember, this doesn't mean that we won't have a healthy wetlands until 2060. The health will grow in increments. Every year we will be a little safer as the coast builds up.