Let’s all pretend New Orleans will be OK!

Chris Clarke sees that we’re Abandoning NOLA in Orion:

“[W]hile encouraging city residents to return home and declaring for the media audience that “we will do whatever it takes” to save the city, the President… formally refused the one thing New Orleans simply cannot live without: A restored network of barrier islands and coastal wetlands.”

Leiter reports on the human catastrophe and the same shortsightedness:

The Army Corps of Engineers is still not doing anything on stopping the loss of the coastal littoral. Before Katrina, Louisiana lost some 40 miles of coastline over the last three decades. Congress has only appropriated $200 million for a coastal restoration study when $14 billion is required for coastal restoration and another $25 billion is needed for Category 5 hurricane levee preparation.

It’s all a hollow shell. The Bush administration throws a pittance at a problem, enough to put up a façade of actually caring, while letting the infrastructure rot and the underlying problems grow. They’re all bluster, and why should they care? They’ll reap their profits now, and let future generations pay for it.


  1. Billy says

    The president is of the belief that stating that something will be done is the same as actually doing it. He stated that New Orleans will be rebuilt “better than before”; therefore, that is what is happening. When he came here last week, he visited the least affected part of New Orleans and was able to state quite truthfully that the city has begun to look like it did when he was here in his youth.

  2. rrt says

    This administration has also drastically cut funding for two Federal, FEMA-administered programs aimed at natural distaster mitigation (the reduction and/or prevention of damage, typically via methods alternative to the Army-Corps approach of levees and such.) These programs provide floodplain buyouts of homes and properties (converted to permanent open-space), wind-resistant construction, disaster planning, etc:

    The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), considered by most everyone in the field as a great success and long-term money-saver, was cut in half: from a 15% “bonus” of total disaster costs to 7.5%, eary in Bush’s first term. His administration has tried to kill it entirely every year since. Roughly an entire year’s worth of mitigation funding under HMGP was delayed because the funds were diverted from FEMA to the Iraq war.

    The Pre-Disaster Mitigation program (PDM), promised in exchange for the HMGP cuts, has suffered from poor implementation on the Federal side, with inconsistent and confusing rules that change from year to year, and at least one entire year of funding skipped due to these problems. Most recently, funding for this year’s PDM has been cut by roughly two-thirds, and it is questionable whether PDM will continue. The official reason for these most recent cuts? The money was needed for New Orleans and general hurricane damage.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

  3. Steve LaBonne says

    This has always been their modus operandi- make a splashy announcement about tackling some problem (eg. AIDS in Africa), then quietly fail to follow through with actual cash. They can get away with it time after time because of the pathetic hopelessness of the news media, the same media that are busy peddling the baldfaced lie that Abramoff gave money to Democrats.

  4. says

    Nothing can — or should — be done about rebuilding New Orleans as long as the levees remain unfixed. Even if restored to their pre-Katrina levels, they were woefully inadequate compared to state-of-the-art dikes like those in the Netherlands, and now that their inadequacies are bared to the world, what business would dare locate in New Orleans? New Orleans, alas, is going to be a boutique town in the future.

    One last thing to note here: One problem not mentioned anywhere else is that the storm surge pushed up the mouth of the Mississippi — a storm surge contained by the levees south of New Orleans — came within *SIX INCHES* of topping the Mississippi River levees. If that had happened, the bowl wouldn’t have slowly filled like it did. Rather, a wall of water 20 feet high would have basically washed away everything south of the Bonnet Carre Spillway (including the West Bank) as the overtopped levees collapsed due to scouring, and the death toll would have been tens of thousands, not “merely” the 5,000 or so that are currently suspected (we don’t know the final death toll yet, since the collapsed houses of the 9th Ward haven’t even been fully searched yet, much less cleaned up to the point where any bodies underneath could be found). Unless the levees south of New Orleans are removed and the marshes restored down there so that wetlands can help lessen storm surge, some future hurricane aimed straight at the mouth of the Mississippi *will* destroy what’s left of New Orleans.

    Another thing: St. Bernard Parish (immediately southeast of New Orleans) is *TOAST*. The marshes to the east of St. Bernard Parish are *GONE*. There were marshes there before Katrina. There are none now. The ocean is now lapping directly against the rear levees of St. Bernard Parish. Even a Category 1 hurricane will slosh right over those levees. And don’t even think about Plaquemines Parish. There’s nothing left of Plaquemines. Just water, and a thin strip of land along the Mississippi River levee.

    Looking at the satellite pictures on the Corps of Engineers site, I can’t help but thinking that anybody who moves back to New Orleans is nuts. All these high-fallutin’ “rebuilding” plans are doomed unless both the natural protections of New Orleans and the levee system are restored and enhanced.

    As for the location of New Orleans: New Orleans was built where it was for one reason: it is the only logical place to put a port for sea-going ships on the lower Mississippi. Going upriver to the next high land past New Orleans, the river becomes narrower and faster and takes a lot of fuel to push against the current, and only smaller ships can get there. By the time you get to New Orleans, the river is wide and slow. Downriver of New Orleans is marshes. Upriver of New Orleans is marshes. Any port city on the Gulf Coast is going to be vulnerable to hurricanes, but before the marshes washed away, New Orleans was less vulnerable than, say, Galveston. Hurricanes of the strength that hit Galveston hit the Louisiana coast probably a dozen times in the first 250 years of the city’s existence (remember, New Orleans predates the United States) and never resulted in anything other than localized flooding. It was not until the modern levees were built in the past sixty years that the wetlands, deprived of fresh water, started decaying and, finally, starting in 1970 or so, started simply dissolving and falling into the ocean. From a point of view of a port city, New Orleans was actually *LESS* vulnerable to hurricanes than port cities like Galveston or Mobile… until its natural protections were destroyed by the Corps of Engineers channelizing the river. If the natural protections are restored, New Orleans is still the best place to put a port on the lower Mississippi, indeed, the best place to put a port on the entire lower Gulf Coast… but without those natural protections, it is doomed, and I just can’t see moving back there just to get washed away again.

    – Badtux the (Former) Louisiana Penguin

  5. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says

    Ray Nagin ‘pulls a Pat Robertson’

    NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that “God is mad at America” and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

    “Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroyed and put stress on this country,” Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

    It’s a good thing Jehovah has so many people who are able to interpret his actions, else we might mistakenly believe he had nothing to say.

  6. Harry Eagar says

    I see. And when the Democrats were sitting on an unimaginable surplus, how many billions of that were they allocating to New Orleans wardheelers, er, I mean, levee construction?

    To read the host and most posters here, you’d have to believe that the history of the United States began in 2000. Talk about Young Earth Creationism!

  7. Travis says

    Harry, is it safe to assume then that you would have been in favor of the Dems doing such with the “unimaginable surplus” at the time?

  8. Harry Eagar says

    No, not safe.

    I don’t believe in the ‘precautionary principle,’ if only because we aren’t that rich.

    My assessment is that the far greater danger was — and still is — a large earthquake in the mid-Mississippi Valley. When that one hits (due in the next century or thereabouts), the loss of life will be orders of magnitude bigger than even BadTux’s imaginary 5K.

    But what I would have done is irrelevant. Approaches like those taken here do not sound like thoughtful political commentary but insane antiBush ravings that ignore widely known facts. Namely, that if the Dems had done what is demanded of Bush, Bush would have inherited a perfect levee system.

  9. Steve LaBonne says

    Notice how neatly Harry evaded your question, Travis. No, of course he wouldn’t have favored it. And that’s not irrelevant at all to the point he imagined he was making. Quite the contrary.

  10. Harry Eagar says

    Evaded? What part of ‘No’ didn’t you get?

    I don’t expect raving leftists to agree with — or even to understand — the rest of the post, but the first word shouldn’t have been that hard.

  11. Steve LaBonne says

    What part of “since we know damn well you wouldn’t have supported it- and we also know that the Republicans, who would have approved no such expenditure, controlled Congress for most of Clinton’s presidency- your comments are blatantly hypocritical” do YOU not get?

  12. Harry Eagar says

    I am not a Republican, but I wouldn’t have supported it then and I don’t support unlimited spending there now.

    Hardly a day passes on Pharyngula where the host and posters don’t congratulate themselves on responding to evidence, unlike those deluded creationists.

    Well, let’s put that to a real-world test.

    A few days after Katrina, when Rita was believing to be approaching Galveston head-on, some people (but none of them Pharyngula leftists, then or since) suddenly got worried about the fact that in the 95 years since the 17-foot seawall was built, siltation had reduced its height above water level to 5 or 6 feet.

    And while 5,000 people never died in New Orleans, despite BadTux’s hallucinations, 5,000 people really did die in Galveston, which is why they built the wall.

    So justify your irrational yen to spend money on New Orleans when the real threat to human life was, and remains, elsewhere. (You could prove me wrong by citing a Democratic pre-September — or even post-September — demand to spend billions at Galveston, but I’m not holding my breath for that evidence.)

    At least I have got the Young America Creationists to push the start of politics back to 1992 now, but those defenses of New Orleans already existed during periods when the Democrats controlled the presidency, Congress and Louisiana state government, like 1976-80 and 1960-68. And they didn’t do anything then, although the risk was as well understood then as now.

  13. Steve LaBonne says

    I don’t support rebuilding the 9th Ward, which was drained only in the early 20th Century and never should have been. On the other hand, wetland restoration is absolutely essential to making [i]any[/i] part of the city safely habitable in the long run. And I strongly object to the repeated Bush ploy- of which this is only the latest example- of making grandiose promises in public to gain political credit, which privately are never intended to have any cash value. I object as well to the spineless incompetence of the press which never reports these stories.

  14. Harry Eagar says

    You’re evading the issue, which is, why did not the Democrats act when they had the power to do so?

  15. NatureSelectedMe says

    I really can’t see how rebuilding NOLA is the Feds responsibility. It’s up to the people of NOLA. I know that probably sounds harsh to your tender ears, but would you want Bush rebuilding your house? Why would you suppose they should want that? What did they ever do to you to wish that on them?

  16. Steve LaBonne says

    In case NatureWasn’tSelectiveEnough wasn’t paying attention, PZ’s post was about rebuilding the protective wetlands, not houses. Such projects cannot be and never have been purely a local and / or state responsibility. And the wetlands are being destroyed in the first place because of past Federal flood-control projects. Go back and read BadTux’s post for a refresher both on that point and on the national economic importance of NOLA.