Comments: Rebuilding New Orleans: A Continuing Mistake

I can't believe that people still want to send money down here.

First, our politicians will take every bit of it. They might build something that looks adequate for its purpose, but the expense will be at least 5 times over cost and then the structure will fall apart in a few years.

Second, New Orleans is under water as you said. It is a swamp that is merging with the ocean. It is gone. There is nothing remotely cultural about keeping it alive with expensive projects. The city had begun to die in the 70's and this hurricane only completed the death process.

Third, if you bring those people from the 9th ward back here, Louisiana will never progress. They consistently voted Dem. and any give away program that could be thought of. I think the real reason that other states want to rebuild NO is to get the refugees out of there towns. Any where they have gone there has been trouble.

Posted by David Caskey,MD at August 29, 2007 09:58 AM

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Posted by David M at August 29, 2007 10:20 AM

If Katrina hadn't destroyed NO, NPR would have had a dearth of commentary-disguised-as-news over the last 2 years. Just about every week there is an interview with some unfortunate soul who is still waiting for a handout, a slow banjo playing in the background in pathetic sympathy. The communities that have rebuilt themselves (in particular, the Korean Christian community) are for the most part relegated to a fleeting comment.

Today was particularly bad. It seemed every single show (even Marketplace) had some sort of Katrina angle thrown in, with no end to the interviewees trotted out with sly (and not-so-sly) digs at Bush. They also bemoaned that it looks like Louisiana will elect a Republican governor since Blanco was so inept. Although they did note that the tards in New Orleans re-elected the King Tard Nagin.

Posted by negentropy at August 29, 2007 11:08 AM

If you recall, shortly after the hurricane, the people at the Super Dome were asking "who is going to take care of me now". That is the over rideing theme with these people. They can not do at thing for themselves, the government has made sure of that. If, by some miracle, they were provided with houses in NO, they would still not move from their current location at that would take too much effort. I know this as I have to work with these people every day.

As to Nagan, he is the choice of the white business men in the city. He was chosen due to their ability to manuplate him. Any of the other choices would have been horrible. It shows you what we have to work with in terms of leadership down here. All a politician has to do is promise a social program and he is immediately in.

Posted by David Caskey,MD at August 29, 2007 11:17 AM

I know this is a bit off point but "Katrina made landfall near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana as a large Category 3 storm"

NOT says Paul: http://wizbangblog.com/content/2007/08/29/the-katrina-video-congress-didnt-want-you-to-see-ii.php

It's long but the most in depth piece i've seen.

Posted by markm at August 29, 2007 12:37 PM

To be honest, I don't care about NO too much one way or the other. It does seem odd, though, that in this day of global warming politics, that there are _any_ politicians on the left who are in favor of doing anything other than abandoning NO as a city. How idiotic _is_ it to be truly concerned that sea levels are going to rise by 1-? meters and still want to rebuild a city that is already below sea level? It really falls into the "are you lying now or were you lying then" category.

Posted by suek at August 29, 2007 06:06 PM

Damned fine point, suek.

Better we should save Gaia than NOLA.

Posted by Pablo at August 29, 2007 09:04 PM

The adage that those who learn nothing from their mistakes are destine to repeat them seems appropriate here.

Posted by czekmark at August 29, 2007 10:09 PM

So, you're in favor of razing Greensburg, KS too?

Posted by ahem at August 30, 2007 10:48 AM

ahem, who is that comment directed towards?

You're making a completely irrelevant, and frankly stupid argument is you are attempting to equate New Orleans with Greensburg. Greensburg was felled by a meteorological possibility; New Orleans is facing a geological certainty.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 30, 2007 11:18 AM

Ahem's comment misses the mark, but not by much. Hurricanes regularly rip various parts of Florida. The feds pony up millions/billions in aid, things get rebuilt, and nobody seems bothered by it. A few years go by, and the sames places get smacked again, and again: federal aid, rebuilding, life goes on. All around the world, cities are built in geographically unfortunate places. New Orleans was located where it was for a good reason.

The only difference is the political will to protect a place. The Dutch live below sea level; they simply spend the money required to make it possible.

New Orleans drowned because the federal government failed it. The wetlands could be reclaimed; the levess could be proplerly built, and New Orleans could continue. Unfortunately, in the current climate, where Grover Norquist wants a federal govt that can "be drowned in a bathtub", this is not the solution that people want to hear. So, instead, we've chosen to abandon an American city, which just happened to be one of the great cities of the world. I'd prefer not to think that racism is involved, but it's hard to come to any other conclusion.

Posted by montysano at August 30, 2007 12:09 PM

Obviously, no one here has ever understood what New Orleans was to the people that lived there. Grandstanding about how the land is eroding is just insensitive and stupid. New Orleans was and still remains one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the United States. It's one of the few cities recognized worldwide for it's contributions to culture, art and music. It's very easy as someone that doesn't understand living in a place like New Orleans to just dismiss it and call those that love it idiots for wanting to be there, but what this really comes down to is not supporting a city that's eventually going to sink anyways, but supporting a population that chooses to live in a part of the U.S. The earlier comment about Greensburg was dismissed because it isn't inevitable that the land there will constantly be destroyed, but it is constantly destroyed year after year by that so called meteorological possibility. The people of California don't get lambasted every time an earthquake happens do they? No one says L.A. should be abandoned, so why does that argument come so easy for LA? Face it, New Orleanians are going to stay there, they're going to rebuild and their going to continue to raise issues about how federal response to real problems is far more important than pet wars created by a President with too much power.

Posted by dr4lom at August 30, 2007 12:13 PM

Confederate Yankee,

I'm completely amazed that I could be reading your blog all this time and not realize you had such opinions on N.O. Attitudes such as yours truly scare me and make me wonder what country I live in. Contrary to what you may think of People who live in or near N.O. we are intelligent and realize the lack of respect we have from the rest of our great nation. The problem is all you can think of is 'my tax dollars'. Well, in order to bring N.O. to Cat 5 levees it may cost each person in this country $5 over 30 years. Problem is if N.O. gets this, everyone wants their share. I have yet to see scientific proof that the end is only 80 years away not one frustrated LSU prof. I think if you reviewed all the evidence from multiple sources, you'll see that there are workable plans to rebuild the wetlands that have been robbed from us by the oil companies and other interest. I could go on, but your selfish and indiscriminant attitude makes me feel sorry for anyone in this nation that suffers from the next calamity.

Posted by DwnSth at August 30, 2007 12:47 PM

While we're at it, let's get rid of the critical path for midwest grain shipments, crude oil, coffee imports, rubber imports, steel...hell, you name it. I mean, New Orleans is only the largest inland port in the U.S. and one of the top five largest ports in the country period.

Moron.

The Federal Government has to spend so much on New Orleans because without that city, we wouldn't be able to ship any grain, coal, or a multitude of other things out of the country or to the lower half of the nation.

Posted by Marquis de Lafayette at August 30, 2007 01:11 PM

"if you bring those people from the 9th ward back here"

Those people = the blacks. That's what you mean, right? I can hear the lowering of your voice, good Dr., as you intone "those people". The wrong side of the tracks. The wrong side of the canal. The wrong skin color. The wrong attitude. I grew up in the south. I know exactly what you mean.

You do know that over 60% of the homes in the ninth ward were owned by the people who lived in them, right? I think you'd be awfully hard-pressed to find that rate of home ownership in any lilly-white Baton Rouge suburb.

Posted by Marquis De Sade at August 30, 2007 01:20 PM

Dr. Caskey:

Stop using the university's resources to post racist comments on web boards, and report to my office. We're taking your purple and gold confederate flag away.

Posted by Sean O' Keefe at August 30, 2007 01:29 PM

I see that Sadly No! is once again sending over the smug but ignorant. As none of you have apparently any knowledge of geology or coastal and marine studies, let me pass on a few bits of knowledge.

The Dutch have reclaimed land from the sea, and have done a marvelous engineering job in doing so, but the geology of Holland is completely different than that of New Orleans, which is built upon a bed of ever-compacting alluvial silt.

The fact of the matter is that the practice of building levees and dikes in Louisiana has choked off the delta region's supply of silt. Instead of seasonal flooding leaving sediments to replenish the ever-compacting delta silt below it, the Mississippi's sediments are instead ejected into the Gulf of Mexico and dispersed. Mankind, in attempting to control the river's course and flooding, has interfered with and largely destroyed the only natural mechanism the delta has of replenishment.

In addition, if we are leaving the current interglacial period and entering a period where we can expect sea level to rise as many suggest (hello, global warming), this problem is only going to be exacerbated as rising seas more rapidly encroach upon the protective marshes.

There is precisely one way, and one way only, to even hope of rebuilding the Mississippi delta and the marshes that protect it, and that is to eliminate the levee system, and allow the river to flood, deposit replenishing sediments, and chart its own course. That, of course, will not happen, because politics is getting in the way of sound science. For these replenishment practices to work, the levee system that protects New Orleans and guides the path of the river must be removed.

We know that river deltas replenish themselves through sediments deposited through seasonal flooding, and that is the same the world over, on all continents. When sediments are not deposited, the natural effects of erosion and compression still apply to the land where the waters are no longer allowed to reach. When you starve a delta from the sediments that built it, it will erode and compact away. This is why New Orleans will die.

This is far more than a matter of political will.

Further, New Orleans will drown because the silt-based soils in the area will not, and cannot be relied upon to hold. The soilbed simply lacks the cohesive physical properties it needs to hold together, which is precisely why these levees failed before they were overtopped. They were undermined, from the base. If you spend tens of billions of dollars (and probably closer to the trillions) to build systems comparable to those of Holland, the system will still fail; no known system build up such a weak foundation will be resistant to intrusion, undermining, and eventual collapse.

The attempted resurrection of New Orleans is based upon current political realities, and is perhaps inevitable as a result of human arrogance. When the city is swept underwater once more, and once more, several thousand people (and hopefully no more) are once again listed as dead or missing, perhaps we’ll start listening to the real scientists, instead of social scientists, for the proper solutions.

We’re relocated flood-prone cities before, and that is the responsible course of action here. It makes for more sense to move the port further up the river beyond the alluvial fan if at all possible, than continue to poor more money into building levees that only compound the problem and promise a great catastrophe and loss of life in the future.

dr4lom, I’m not making any sort of cultural judgments about the people or sociology of New Orleans, I’m simply basing recommendations upon what scientists at LSU, the Corps of Engineers, and other coastal and marine studies programs have already established about the mechanisms of how the geology, hydrology, biology, and oceanography of the area are understood to work.

No one disputes the unique cultural or artistic contributions New Orleans has made to our society. Nor does anyone have any trouble at all understanding why so many would love such a unique culture.

What we have to concern ourselves with, however, is pragmatism. At what point does it become far more advisable to attempt to move the people, the port, and the culture, than watch it all get swept away in one savage stroke?

It seems to me that many people are far more interested in using the people of New Orleans as political pawns than anything else. Republicans want to help them rebuild so that they can claim some sort of moral high ground; Democrats claim Republicans aren’t rebuilding fast enough so they can claim the moral high ground.

Neither side seems to have enough sense to move the people themselves to high ground.

As a result, one day, in this year or another, New Orleans will once again see thousands of people die when the levees once again fail. It is sad that these additional thousands—most of them the poor and impoverished, no doubt—will have to die before people will finally start thinking that relocation is the best way to preserve their culture and their lives from a sinking land at the mouth of a hungry sea.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 30, 2007 01:47 PM

I don't know what else to say Confederate Yankee. Since you are obviously a geologist and wetlands expert (I hope you're not spouting ideas you may have simply read) then I cannot argue. On the other hand, I would like to see you host a true group of true experts both local and international to see what they have to say. Again, your ignorance is amazing and sad. Sorry C.Y. I'm done with you 'reveling the truth in media'. You're a sham!

Posted by DwnSth at August 30, 2007 02:21 PM

I never claimed to be a geologist or wetlands "expert" by any stretch of the imagination. I took geography and oceanography courses before declaring my undergraduate degee, and retain enough from those classes to understand the basic mechanisms involved, but that is all, other than what I've gleaned from readily accessible scientific studies and an interview I've done with a real expert.

I've yet to encounter a single scientist or paper that suggests New Orleans has long-term viability. Should you be able to provide links to a scientist who does, I'd be quite interested in reading his research and conclusions. I suspect you can't readily do that, and that you've let your emotions get in the way of logic.

I've invited experts to discuss the topic previously, sending out email to close to two dozen experts in related research, two years ago when I first wrote about the subject.

Only two replied. As I recall, one replied only to state that no scientist in his right mind would touch the issue because of the political angle, and the other was the one expert who shared his thoughts only under the cover of anonymity, for precisely those same concerns.

If you are so certain that New Orleans can be saved, please provide a practical solution.

I'm sure we'd all appreciate it.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 30, 2007 02:41 PM

Since you are a supposed advocate of fact finding, I will be researching my contacts within the accedimic and professional field in order to provide a valid and meaniful response. I would invite others to pursue the same so we can all compare notes.

Posted by DwnSth at August 30, 2007 03:02 PM

By all means, please do so.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 30, 2007 03:07 PM

I've yet to encounter a single scientist or paper that suggests New Orleans has long-term viability.

Ummm...... Ivor van Heerden from the LSU Hurrican Center would be one. You're often sloppy with your sources, CY. I'm certainly not aware of some great chorus of scientists who advocate abandoning NO.

If you are so certain that New Orleans can be saved, please provide a practical solution.

Today? Right now? Get the levees built, get 'em built right, get 'em built now. I hate to put it in these terms, but the numbers I've seen quoted for the cost of the levee system, and for wetland reclamation, are essentially equal to a couple of months in Iraq.

To suggest that we abandon an American city based on what may happen some decades hence seems to me to be the most slippery of slopes.

Posted by montysano at August 30, 2007 03:10 PM

Very good, Monty, you've produced the name of a one scientist, and even one who has published a book. I stand corrected: I am now aware of a single scientist that states as a matter of policy that he thinks that New Orleans should be rebuilt. I'm sure there are more that feel precisely the same way.

I'll contact Dr. van Heerden. I have some very specific questions to ask him.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 30, 2007 03:31 PM

What's missing in that picture is your decency.

Posted by Nimrod Gently at August 30, 2007 03:49 PM

CY: if you read the lede of that link I posted, you'll note that Greensburg, KS had been counting its luck in tornado alley for many years. Now will you spare the mock scorn and say whether it's worth your federal tax dollars?

There are many, many places in the US that fail your test. The history of settlements shows that they often flourish in spite of environmental risks for the advantages the afford. Rivers flood; coastal areas are hit by storms and are subject to erosion. The French weren't being capricious in 1718, and neither was Jefferson in 1803.

So why can't I help thinking that those condemning NOLA would shrug and play amateur seismologist were the Big One to hit San Francisco, but would somehow morph into amateur meteorological statisticians to spare those small-town dwellers who finally crapped out in tornado alley, or would sigh and nod at their federal tax dollars going to drought-affected farmers?

Posted by ahem at August 30, 2007 04:29 PM

ahem, perhaps I need to type slower so you'll be able to catch up, and understand something very basic: New Orleans will probably not exist in 50 years. The land on which it resides will cease to exist.

All the other places you mention can suffer temporary disasters of varying intensity, from which they can recover and perhaps not experience another such calamity for generations.

Becoming part of the Gulf of Mexico?

Rather permanent.

Of course, you don't have to ask me... ask the residents of Indianola, once the second largest port in Texas.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 30, 2007 07:18 PM

CY, perhaps you need to think a bit slower! Odd how you go after posters who question your opinion. Back in 2006 wasn't it you who said to the Washington Post "Whether you are a Pulitzer-winning journalist or a Weblog Award nominee, your value comes from your credibility and your ability to substantiate what you say, and your ability to admit and correct mistakes."
What you didn't say was how grudgingly you admit mistakes (your response to montysanto).
Rather than citing one 'credible' source perhaps you can give names and dates for your resources. I've reviewed your body of investigative journalism and it leaves a bit to be desired as far as this debate goes. What's your stance on global warming. Do you buy into that myth also? You can sit on your bully pulpit and spout whatever nonsense you wish. Put some of that myth-busting bad reporting research to good use and give us some backup for this view from a misguided northerner stuck in the south. By the way, my investigation continues and unlike you I have to do this on my own time. Back to the Washington Post, you said "I try to establish credibility by doing research the reader may not have time to conduct on his own". I say prove that statement.

Posted by DwnSth at August 30, 2007 10:23 PM

DwnSth - Montysano provides a very good analogy to your query on global warming in his comment at 3:10:

"To suggest that we abandon an American city based on what may happen some decades hence seems to me to be the most slippery of slopes."

Essentially the AGW types are suggesting we radically alter our behavior, change our economies, and spend untold billions of dollars on what is essentially junk "science." The purported consensus doesn't exist and more debunking of supposed evidence is making it through the media and academic censorship filter all the time now. I can't answer for CY, but any rational person should be able to determine that based on the manipulated evidence and debunked evidence produced to date and the small amount of green house gasses produced by mankind relative to the overall total, AGW is a religion, a cult, not a science. Follow the money.

Posted by daleyrocks at August 30, 2007 10:42 PM

I would also venture to say that there is a much better body of science on the study of coastal erosion and marshes than AGW.

Posted by daleyrocks at August 30, 2007 10:47 PM

DwnSth, I'll admit mistakes when I know I've made them. To date, I've seen not the first bit of documentation provided to show that I'm incorrect here, while I've linked the sources I drew from in the article. I'm hearing whining, but seeing no facts.

Global warming is not a myth; we've know for some time we're coming out of an interglacial period. What no one knows conclusively is if mankind has had any impact on this. The data sure doesn't support that conclusion at this time, where it seems solar activity may be more responsible.

Just for kicks, I've contacted 58--almost five dozen--scientists from relevant disciplines. We'll see what those who respond have to say next week, but I already have one response, from a Research Specialist at the Division of Nearshore Research, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

His response was that he agree that we should move everyone out of New Orleans and not let it be rebuilt.

I'll post whatever other responses I get midweek next week, as we are entering a holiday weekend, and I'm still working on two other investigations that I find far more interesting.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 31, 2007 12:11 AM

CY, like you have sent out many queries and received back few. From Dean at LSU School of Coast and Environment:

Whether you feel New Orleans is worth rebuilding depends very much on the timeframe you are concerned about. If you are concerned about the next 50 years, then it probably makes sense. If you are looking 500 years into the future, then it probably does not.

There's more to this response but that can wait until next week.

Again, the science of NOLA being part of the Gulf in 80 years is what I'm questioning here. If the science is there then fine, let's put our vast national resources to work and move it somewhere (not really sure how that would work). If it's 200 or 300 years out, let's fix what's there, protect the people and have real thought on how to handle the situation over a long term.

BTW, this research stuff is kinda fun. I can see why you've made a career out of it.

Have a great Labor Day weekend! I'll be in my new FEMA funded pool (Just kidding, FEMA is always good for a laugh around here).

Posted by DwnSth at August 31, 2007 08:02 AM

CY,
I think if you read the uniformed, illogical, mean comments by those on this thread that have been arguing with you, then you will understand the personality of NO. This is how the whole city acts. I lived there for 4 years and they are some of the meanest, most ignorant people on earth.

As to my bigoted statements. If you look at the population of the 9th ward you will find that it is made up of both races. Both act in consort as a liberal voting block that sells its vote to whatever liberal offers the most "give me" social programs at the expense of the rich (those who make any money in Louisiana).

Your assessment of the loss of wet lands and is correct and it has nothing to do with the "oil companies". This loss was the product of government action that began in the early 1900's and thinking individuals warned against it at that time. But true to form, our government felt that "something had to be done" to combat periodic flooding of low areas and this was an excellent way to accomplish that goal and steal from the taxpayer all at the same time.

I might pass on a conversation I recently had with a lawyer from NO. He said that his prominent neighborhood still did not have appropriate sewage removal. Daily a truck is brought in by the government and hooked to the lines. If is then removed and replaced by another truck the following day. The reason the main lines can not be fixed is that FEMA can not decide if the damage to the lines was due to the hurricane or aging. They worked well before the hurricane. That is the mentality we deal with.

Posted by David Caskey at August 31, 2007 09:24 AM

A man of reason studies an issue carefully and closely; consults with experts; gathers and weighs evidence; arrives at a logical conclusion; puts pen to paper; writes with clarity; dots every I and crosses every T to craft a seamless blog entry.

He is not worried about falsifiability tests because he wants to get things right, to see the world correctly. He just gets aggravated about all the out-of-the-woodwork crack brained lunatics (like Marquis de Sade, ahem, DwnSth...) who answer rational discourse with inchoate "feelings" and shameless dishonesty (non-stop fallacies and tricks of rhetoric).

Posted by Janes Randi Rocks at August 31, 2007 10:34 AM

The credibility of this site would be greatly enhanced if you could demonstrate that you knew what a liberal was -- but, then you would have to confront the awful truth that YOU are liberals and I doubt you can handle the truth.

But, just in case, you have some intellectual honesty left here goes...

This nation was founded as a REPUBLIC, not a democracy. A republic is a form of governance where the rule of law is codified and published (Re-Pulbios) in a civil contract of constituted (Constitution) authority.

By definition, a Constitution is a NEGATIVE (restraining) document -- that is, it defines what the prevailing political powers CANNOT DO. Where there is NO Constitution, the prevailing political powers have UNLIMITED authority.

Since UNLIMITED authority is the starting base point of all political powers; the purpose of a Constitution is to restrain that power. It therefore follows that the more LIBERALLY the Constitution is interpreted the MORE power the prevailing political powers have; and the more CONSERVATIVELY the Constitution is interpreted the LESS power the prevailing political powers have.

You people who advocate increases in government authority whether it is through economic assaults on individuals and private property (taxation and redistribution) or military assaults on individuals and private property (war) are the REAL LIBERALS regardless of what you choose to call yourselves.

The state is not a benevolent parent, rather it is a massive bureaucratic system dominated by the selfish self-interest of hundreds of thousands of government employees.

Any "service" these people render you is only because their needs and yours just happen to intersect -- a rare serendipitous accidental conjunction; and hardly a reliable expectation. If you REALLY want freedom; stop relying on handouts and have the guts to be independent.

Posted by Carl Street at September 4, 2007 12:51 PM