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John Wayne's Holster: New Orleans or New Atlantis
John Wayne's Holster
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Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans or New Atlantis



New Orleans is under water! The damage from Hurricane Katrina is estimated to run over $15 billion. And that money only represents the insurable losses of property. Rebuilding the city will cost considerably more, and that money will come largely from federal coffers. That’s your tax dollars. Let's hope the government uses them wisely.

The better part of the devastation in New Orleans did not come directly from Katrina herself. Actually, Mississippi got the brunt of the storm. The damage in New Orleans is largely the result of flooding that occurred following several breaches in the levee system protecting the city from Lake Pontchartrain. Once the breaches have been repaired, it is estimated that it will take over two months to pump out all the water. Then all the sewage, toxic sludge and debris will need to be cleaned up. Then the bulldozers will move in and scoop up the city. Finding a landfill large enough to hold the better part of New Orleans is another question that has yet to be answered.

Then comes the rebuilding, right! Not so fast.

Many, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, have raised serious questions regarding the wisdom of rebuilding the city. Hastert is not suggesting that the city be abandoned, but rather he raises serious considerations as to how the city should be rebuilt.

I believe he makes a valid point. One should question the wisdom of building a city on the floodplains of the Mississippi River. In addition, the better part of New Orleans lies 5-10 feet below sea level and 10-20 feet below the high water marks for Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. The city essentially sits at the bottom of a giant bathtub waiting to be filled by the next hurricane. And hurricanes are not exactly a rare occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico.

So, if the city is rebuilt, how can a repeat performance of Katrina be prevented in the future? Here are three ideas. For starters, the levee system around New Orleans was built to withstand a category 3 hurricane (110 mph winds, 15 foot storm surge). It needs to be upgraded to withstand the larger storms that occasionaly come up the Gulf, such as Katrina which was a category 5 (150 mph winds, 25 foot surge). Second, we should take a lesson from the Dutch who routinely build double or triple levees around their vulnerable cities to serve as a precaution in case of a breach. Third, the lowest lying parts of the city should be out of consideration for rebuilding – especially for housing - in case another flood does occur.

Another point that needs to be considered involves weighing the cost of the rebuilding against the risk of another natural catastrophe! Certainly it would be a great loss to the people who lived and grew up there, and to the country as a whole, to lose a city of such great personal, historical and cultural significance. But from an economic and public safety stand point, perhaps it would be a better to relocate the city. But where? And what do you do with all the refugees in the mean time? No ideas have been put forth as to possible relocation sites, but several ideas of where to house people have been put forward. For example, political commentator Michael Savage suggests housing the refugees on military bases recently designated for closure. I think this is an idea the government should look into.

Although it may be a bit too early to make these decisions, it is certainly not too early to begin thinking about them and doing a little planning. My gut feeling is that the U.S. will rebuild New Orleans on it's current site. Hopefully they put a little thought into it before hand and do not simply rebuild it as it was. That would be a mistake - a stubborn and arrogant challenge of nature.

It could be a modern-day Atlantis in the making.

4 Comments:

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At 12:15 AM, Anonymous P-BS-Watcher said...

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