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I'm getting frustrated with all this talk of not rebuilding New Orleans, and how it's economically unsound (which is wrong) and untennable engineering-wise (which is false) to have a city there.  This meme is being pushed hard by Bush supporters. It's a great way to deflect blame and avoid accountability. It's also, in effect, an exercise in blaming the victim.

Now that the federal government, in the immortal words of Mayor Nagin, finally got off its ass, it's time to start thinking about these issues. As noted by Chris Bowers at MyDD, based on the SUSA poll, 31% of Americans now say the city of New Orleans should not be rebuilt, up 7 points in the past 24 hours. The right-wingers' campain to shift blame is already working, and New Orleans is going to pay dearly for it if they get their way.

More on the flip, with meme-fighting LTE suggestions.

New Orleans is there because the country needs it there. A huge area of the country relies on having a port at the mouth of that great river, where containter ships meet the river barges coming from all over the basin.

See map of Mississippi River Basin.

The economic benefits for this huge section of the country dwarf the costs of the engineering projects required to keep a small chunk of the delta dry. The culture, the music, the food are wonderful side benefits that people focus on first becaure they're the most visible side of the city (and, in my book, enough to be worth rebuilding it). But, fundamentally, New Orleans is a port, and an economically sound one.

The engineering problem is not such a big deal, given a couple billion dollars. This is peanuts compared to Iraq and to the pork in the energy bill. It's also peanuts compared to the costs we're facing now due to the disaster.

One third of The Netherlands is below sea level, and North Sea storm surges can get to 10 feet on top of very high tides.

See the Deltawerken web site (there's a video with good views of the Oosterscheldekering, the biggest of all storm surge barriers).

London is also vulnerable to the storm surges from the North Sea cyclonic storms. The mouth of the river protected by the Thames Barrier, which can be closed when needed.

See the Thames Barrier (wikipedia).

Building practices on the wetlands around the city have been completely irresponsible (and there no rebuiling should happen), but that's not New Orleans' fault. In the NY Times, Mark Fischetti has more details on the history of the city's defenses, and on what should have been and was not done.

See Mark Fischetti's column in the NY Times.

Suggestion on what you can do:  Fight the meme! Write letters-to-the-editor saying:

  1. New Orleans is needed where it is, a large part of the country depends on having a port there.
  2. Protecting the city against the sea is a feasible engineering task (and cheap compared to the benefits). The Dutch have done it not just for a city but for a whole third of the country (and they have storm surges too).
  3. It's shocking that this Administration let the sea defenses deteriorate so badly by underfunding the work of the Army Corps of Engineers.
  4. It's outrageous that Bush supporters are now blaming the victims, the people who kept a city the country needs running. This is an obvious attempt to deflect blame for the lack of disaster prevention and preparedness over the past four years.

Originally posted to miholo on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:27 PM PDT.


Should New Orleans be rebuilt

83%26 votes
3%1 votes
12%4 votes

| 31 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Okay.... (none)
    ...How about Camp New Orleans?

    With memorials to the fallen and inhabitants daily engaged in restoration of the city.
    I can't go, but I think it would be a good alternative either to McDonalds, the armed forces hust now perhaps, or a season abroad.
    It would need a crack team of administrators to make sure that the steady stream of donations to make it possible were used efficiently.

    Existing charities are great and all but we want our priorities seen to. We want people to be educated, nationally, and to see the example of public service. Existing charities are usually visible only through a blizzard of solicitiation in the mail once you have sent them money. We need a paperless charity, and one that it is not afraid to tackle the root cause of the problems it addresses... Namely conservativism.

    Step outside of two-dimensional politics.

    by NewDirection on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:30:01 PM PDT

    •  Oh and as for the poll question.... (none)
      ....My answer is that if the rich want to live on the coast, let them. The poor should not have to live on the coast if they don't want to. Obviously the port needs to be where the water is deep. But housing should not be where flood-buffering wetlands want to be, unless it's on stilts or pontoons and can afford to be lost.

      There is much to be gained by moving people inland. Remember sea levels will be rising in the future anyhow.

      That's my opinion.

      Step outside of two-dimensional politics.

      by NewDirection on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:33:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  poor people (none)
        I can appreciate that take on it -- though still argue that it's silly to argue that it's too difficult to do, as The Netherlands shows.

        My main concern, however is with the blame-the-victim rethoric. It's obscene and it's being used to deflect blame from Bush, when it would have been relatively cheap to avoid this disaster, which was predicted in eerie detail.

        •  I Grew Up In Hurricane Country (none)
          On Long Island.
          ALong Dune Road, on the Atlantic, are a string of multimillion dollar homes that are continually washed away and replaced. That is my frame of reference. It's one thing to have your second (or fifth) home in such a precarious place. No one should have to raise their children, let alone keep their pets, in such a position.

          If the rebuilding happens and that is where the homes and jobs and services are, that is where people will again have to go. Forgive me but I just don't see why it wouldn't be easier to move historic buildings and streets stone by stone than to fight mother nature.

          The low countries have no choice, they have no land. We do.

          Step outside of two-dimensional politics.

          by NewDirection on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:54:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  blame and accountability (none)
            I mostly disagree on the economics and engineering of it, but respect you position.

            However, my key point remains: Bush supporters seem to be having success in their blame-the-victim campaign. People did not choose to live there because they're stupid. The Administration defunded the levee reinforcement work over the past four years because they're stupid and criminally negligent.

            •  Absolute Agreement On That Point (none)
              I just refuse to let Dennis "The Menace" Hastert monopolize the worth-debating question of (not whether, in his words, but where) rebuilding strategy.

              Step outside of two-dimensional politics.

              by NewDirection on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 02:04:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  err, the location isn't a port anymore (none)
    The Port of Southern Louisiana is no longer located primarily in New Orleans; it's along a 50-mile stretch of the river.  Most of the facilities are located directly on the river north of New Orleans.  The city itself is primarily important as the business hub and the place where the people live, not for actual shipping.  Those particular functions could be carried out just as well if the city were moved 50 miles north.

    "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

    by Delirium on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:30:20 PM PDT

    •  fair enough (none)
      Fair enough, but when the city was built it was not out stupidity, as people are arguing now -- it was the only solution.

      In any case, you need the people to support the port. If you just move everything north and let the delta erode, at some point in the not-too-distant future you'll have the same problem again. You have to stop the delta erosion somewhere, and there's no reason not to do it where it is now. It's not crazy and unreasonably expensive as they trying to portray it.

      •  I don't think that's very sustainable though (none)
        We're talking stuff on a geological scale here---millions of tons of silt moving around.  Even $10 billion of levees would just be a stopgap measure, maybe good for 20-30 years.  Not to mention that it's ecologically a disaster---river deltas are supposed to flood periodically, and preventing the floods fucks them up in all sorts of ways (as Egypt is finding out now that they've stopped the Nile from flooding).

        "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

        by Delirium on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:38:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fischetti (none)
          Read Fischetti's column in the NY Times and, if you have access, his older Scientific American article. A reasonable and affordable plan to protect the city for 50 years (up to Cat. 5) was worked out in 2000.
          •  i'd be willing to do that for the core city (none)
            The historic core of the city, sure.  I'm more skeptical of the giant sprawling suburbs that New Orleans has become---the delta really shouldn't be built on to that degree.

            "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

            by Delirium on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:48:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  agree (none)
              There you have my agreement (as already noted in the diary).
              •  perhaps something good could come of it (none)
                If anything good could possibly come of it (and it would take the right political forces for it to work) New Orleans might become a more "European-style" concentrated and highly protected city.  Unlike in places like Phoenix where urban sprawl is natural, it really shouldn't be in New Orleans, where every additional square foot takes more money to protect.  Having more wetlands in the area would absorb more floodwaters too.

                I'm going to make a wild guess that this isn't Bush's grand vision though.

                "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

                by Delirium on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:51:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Galveston is a good comparison, incidentally (none)
      Galveston used to be a major port; since the opening of the Houston Ship Channel in 1914, it no longer is.  Now shipping and population is concentrated about 30 miles from shore, on ground that's an average of 10-15 ft higher, in a somewhat safer location.  Hasn't disrupted shipping at all; quite the opposite.

      "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

      by Delirium on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:37:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  but before the flooding... (none)
        Yes, that's doable (though the city would probably lose much of its character). But it's not the only alternative. Ex-ante, that is before the city got flooded, it would certainly have been cheaper to strenghten the defenses rather than move it. Now, given that much of the city is flooded, it's debatable. But let's not let that be used to blame people for being stupid enough to live there, rather than the massive policy failure this is.
  •  An essential part of rebuilding (none)
    is to restore the wetlands. They work to filter toxins, and to absorb excess water in times of storms. They can also be a buffer against hurricanes.

    The neocons will not give us our country back. If we want it back, we'll have to take it.
    --Lila Garrett

    by peacemonger on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 01:30:57 PM PDT

  •  Way to ignore history, wingers... (none)
    Louisiana was claimed for the French in 1682. New Orleans was established as a French colony in 1718. After 1763, it changed hands to the Spanish. It was built and populated by French settlers, Indians, slaves, exiles, and refugees. It became American territory in 1803. New Orleans flourished under American rule. By 1830, New Orleans was America's third largest city.

    By way of comparison: we got Texas from Mexico in 1836, and it became a state in 1845.

    New Orleans is a unique and quintessentially American city with a long and rich history that stretches back before the establishment of the United States itself. There will always be a New Orleans. We will not abandon them.


  •  I don't know. And niether do you. Nor (none)
    will any one else until the place is dry and the pros and cons of the options can be examined and assessed. There are lots of options.  The bugaboo is that the threat comes not just from water but from wind also.

    1.  Create a new New Orleans nearby.  I think it is now called Baton Rouge.  You could move most of the historic buildings or their fascades there.

    2.  Elevate the entire city, buildings and roads, on fill, or on a honeycomb of  12 ft or more foundation walls.  Sturdier buildings don't need elevation.  Ground floor becomes the basement and the current 2d floor becomes the ground floor.

    3.  COmbination of 1 and 2.  Abandon the southern half, the lowest parts, elevate the other parts.  Perhaps the driest parts don't need any thing.  Quarter and Garden may only need minimal elevation.

    The glib talk of the Netherlands ignores the fact that the perimeter levees enclose vast areas unlike the case in NO.  The ratio of the perimeter length  to the area square footage varies inversely with the area.  so really robust levees may be economically prohibitive on all fur sides of a city.  Depends on how much the inhabitants want to spend.  We have some here, but not on all sides. The cost of all this is going to have to be compared to total or partial relocation.

    There is also a social issue here.  NO will always be at risk and consequently so will it's poorest residents.  There is a real ethical failure here in having such individuals living in an area of such great risk, with both wind and water threats, which can be mitigated but not entirely eliminated.

    We won't know until the options are studied and compared.  My gut feel, without the necessarty info is to lean toward the mixed option.  A tourist town with some high end housing, all elevated and bermed. It's just pretty unlikely to be feasible to both elevate and berm the shotguns.  

    Which minority group would Jesus hate?

    by NorCalJim on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 02:29:52 PM PDT

    •  two issues (none)
      My main point is that there are sound historical reasons why the city was built there and that, before it was flooded, it was feasible and made economic sense to protect it -- and many studies supported that and called for additional funding, but the GOP slashed the budget instead. My position is based on Fischetti, on other reports I've seen over the years, and on talking to people who've been involved in the analysis.

      GOP supporters are arguing otherwise (in a true blame-the-victim way) to deflect blame.

      I guess I should have decoupled this issue from that of whether, once the defunding of the levee work led to the city being flooded, it makes sense to rebuild entirely or partially in the same spot. I still think it probably does for most of it, excluding the new suburbs.

      In the meantime, don't let the media propagate the idea that these people had it coming for being stupid enough to chose to live below sea level.

      •  I'm not dumping on you (none)
        or your city.  But I suspect (not know) that it is going to be collossally difficult, for both ethical and economic reasons, to return it to the way it was.  It is an essential cultural anchor for this country in whatever form we can keep its essential spirit alive.  I don't think just letting it die altogether like some biblical ruin, dispersing all of its people, as the fundies would no doubt prefer, is at all acceptable.  But the alternatives may be grim and we need to prepare ourselves for them.  I can only hope the numbers are really compelling.  

        Which minority group would Jesus hate?

        by NorCalJim on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 02:57:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  our city (none)
          It's not my city, except in the sense that it's everybody's city now. I just happen to know, for professional reasons, people who have worked on the engineering and economic studies of flood control in NO. The city's location is not absurd, as they're trying to portray it now. After it's been flooded, I don't know -- but my educated guess is that it's perfectly doable to recover the core of the city, protecting it properly (including a storm surge barrier at the entrance to the lake), and moving some of the outlaying suburbs north (FEMA progams for this were essentially shut down in 2002). NO is one of the largest ports in the world, the economics are sound.
          •  Do you know if (none)
            there is any possibility of dropping the level of the lake as an alternative for one side?

            Which minority group would Jesus hate?

            by NorCalJim on Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 03:35:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  hard to do (none)
              That would be very hard to do. The lake is barely above sea level, keeping the lake below sea level would require surrounding it with levees. In any case, the river is much higher than the lake, it's just that the city's lake-side levees have become innadequate over the past ten years because of subsidence and loss of protective surrounding wetlands. The levees on that side need to be widened and raised. In the long-run the entrance to the lake needs a storm surge barrier with sluice gates that can be closed when a hurricane comes.

              And, of course, a lot of wetland restoration is needed (they're spending 7 billion to do that in the Everglades, it's mind-boggling that they couldn't spare a fraction of that to save the US's largest port -- but, of course, LA doesn't have a Bush governor...)

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