Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Full Flood Safety

NYT reported Amid all the arguments over how to rebuild this pummeled city, there is one universally held article of faith here: New Orleans must have a flood protection system strong enough to withstand Category 5 storms, the worst that nature can spawn.

Equally true, as far as I am concerned, is that no Federal money should be spent to try to protect land that is 7 to 15 feet BELOW SEA LEVEL.
It is a rallying cry heard on radio broadcasts and in a front-page editorial in The Times-Picayune, in ruined neighborhoods and in corporate boardrooms. Strong protection is the linchpin that everything else depends on, said Joe Veninata, the owner of a shopping center and rental homes in the Gentilly neighborhood, "for people to come to the city and invest, for the people to feel secure." "Without that," Mr. Veninata said, "we can't build New Orleans anymore."
Then don't rebuild New Orleans. Build a new city 30 or 40 miles away on land that is above sea level.
Building Category 5 protection, however, is proving to be an astronomically expensive and technically complex proposition. It would involve far more than just higher levees: there would have to be extensive changes to the city's system of drainage canals and pumps, environmental restoration on a vast scale to replenish buffering wetlands and barrier islands, and even sea gates far out of town near the Gulf of Mexico. The cost estimates are still fuzzy, but the work would easily cost more than $32 billion, state officials say, and could take decades to complete.
Just don't expect the Federal Government to build it. If you want to waste Louisiana money on it, go ahead.
The current levee system around the city was designed to withstand the equivalent of a Category 3 storm, and the Army Corps of Engineers is spending $1 billion to bring the damaged sections to their original design strength. They plan to complete that effort before next year's hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

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