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News Science

Rebuilding New Orleans With Science 564

Posted by Zonk
from the piece-by-piece dept.
EccentricAnomaly writes "The New York Times has a discussion of flood control methods in use in Holland, England, and Bangladesh that could be used in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Of particular interest is the $8 billion Delta Works built by the Netherlands in response to the North Sea flood of 1953, which almost destroyed the city of Rotterdam, but for a heroic captain who plugged a breach in a dike with his ship." From the article: "While scientists hail the power of technology to thwart destructive forces, they note that flood control is a job for nature at least as much as for engineers. Long before anyone built levees and floodgates, barrier islands were serving to block dangerous storm surges. Of course, those islands often fall victim to coastal development."
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Rebuilding New Orleans With Science

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  • Learn from nature (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fembots (753724)
    Long before anyone built levees and floodgates, barrier islands were serving to block dangerous storm surges. Of course, those islands often fall victim to coastal development.

    Is it time to learn from the nature and build some artificial barrier islands, rather than further changing the face of the earth?
    • Re:Learn from nature (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {namtabmiaka}> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:30PM (#13493053) Homepage Journal
      Did you read the next sentence?

      Long before anyone built levees and floodgates, barrier islands were serving to block dangerous storm surges. Of course, those islands often fall victim to coastal development.

      That kind of destroys the entire point of a break island. :-)
      • by pete6677 (681676) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:24PM (#13493627)
        I say let people build there, but they're on their own if the place gets destroyed. No taxpayer assisted insurance, and it's likely that no private insurer will cover them. Somehow I think that pretty view won't be worth it anymore.
      • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:50PM (#13493880) Homepage
        When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a city on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That blew down, flooded, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that's what you're going to get lad, the strongest city in all of America!
    • Like The Palms [thepalm.co.ae]?
    • Re:Learn from nature (Score:4, Informative)

      by VJ42 (860241) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:37PM (#13493123)
      Is it time to learn from the nature and build some artificial barrier islands, rather than further changing the face of the earth?

      Firstly how is building artificial islands not "hanging the face of the earth", secondly, learning from us here in Europe isn't a bad thing, building flood gates and better costal defence like those in london and the Netherlands is worth it in the long run. From TFA:
      "[the Netherlands] erected a futuristic system of coastal defenses that is admired around the world today as one of the best barriers against the sea's fury - one that could withstand the kind of storm that happens only once in 10,000 years."

      it cost them $8bn, but it's lased over 50 years and counting, and they havn't suffered any New Orleans type situation. Pay the money now to invest in the future of your country. Generations will thank you for it
      • Re:Learn from nature (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lgw (121541) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:21PM (#13493586) Journal
        There was actually a plan for storm surge control put together for the defense of New Orleans in the 70s (when the current levee system was planned), based on what works in Europe. It was shot down because of environmental concerns.

        A similar plan was proposed this year. The New York Times hated it. Here's the quote:
        Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water-related projects - this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.

        The Government Accountability Office and other watchdogs accuse the corps of routinely inflating the economic benefits of its projects. And environmentalists blame it for turning free-flowing rivers into lifeless canals and destroying millions of acres of wetlands - usually in the name of flood control and navigation but mostly to satisfy Congress's appetite for pork.

        This is a bad piece of legislation.
        Hard to tell whether it was genuineely a bad plan, or the NYT hated it simply because it was Bush's proposal, but we are at least considering the ideas used in Europe.
        • Re:Learn from nature (Score:3, Informative)

          by nietsch (112711)
          apart from the rethoric and aversion against BabyBush, they have some point about the environmental aspects of big floodgates. The delta works in the netherlands have turned one sea-arm into a freshwater lake. The westerschelde floodgates were supposed to leave the water behind it free-flowing. It's realtively small obstruction to the flow of water and sand had drastic influence on the sandplates behind it.

          Because the current is now less, the channels and gullies between the sandplates are too big. As a res
        • Re:Learn from nature (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Rei (128717) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:47PM (#13494414) Homepage
          Actually, FreeRepublic and other sites are misreporting the date on the article ("The Untouchable Corps", with that text, as "April 13, 2005", and heavily alter the text. The actual article was from August 19th, 2002 [nytimes.com]. You can read it without paying here [gsenet.org]. If you don't believe me that they've changed it, check the New York Times for that text [nytimes.com] you cited. Congrats - you're propagating a newly created urban legend designed by right-wing groups to pretend that Bush really *was* on top, and it was the evil liberal's fault!

          It wasn't "Bush's Proposal", it was a Corps proposal. The article was actually critical of Bush ("He fired (and has yet to replace) Mike Parker, the agency's civilian chief, mainly because Mr. Parker asked for too much money."). The article wasn't critical about the money, but about the environmental impact of the chosen designs. The article didn't even discuss actions on the Mississippi River or flood prevention - their big faulting of the corps was on the subject of Delaware dredging.
          • by nwbvt (768631) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @06:23PM (#13494738)
            I used your link to search for the first line of his quote ("Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health" [nytimes.com]) and got an article dated April 15, 2005 titled The Untouchable Corps.

            Then I searched for the similar section of your article ("Anyone who cares about sound budgeting and about the health" [nytimes.com]) and got a different article dated August 19, 2002 titled Taming the Untouchable Corps.

            So either the Times published two stories with very similar titles and eerily similar lines by coincidence, or someone felt lazy and just changed a few lines and republished the same article. If you have a subscription, feel free to read them and determine which is the case. Since the latter seems more likely, I'm not in the mood to pay them.

            Congrats - you're propagating a newly created urban legend designed by left-wing groups to pretend that right-wing groups are misrepresenting the holy New York Times editorial page in a attempt to pretend that Bush really *was* on top, and it was the evil liberal's fault!

            Wow, that was a mouthful.

    • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:38PM (#13493139) Homepage
      The best protection the New Orleans area used to have against storm surges was its wetlands *and* its barrier islands. As the city has expanded, not only has it increased the volume and depth of its below-sea-level "bowl", but it has at the same time cut down its buffer zone of places that the water can safely flood into in the immediate area. Thus, not only do you have a larger area to protect, but more buildup of the surge as it hits the coast near you. Around New Orleans, a single square mile of wetlands restoration would have reduced the storm surge by about a foot.

      Of course, the bowl problem itself is a side effect of development; almost all cities sink, but building on delta land you sink much faster. The river would normally lay the area over with sediment, but it's diverted ,dumping the sediment out into the gulf instead. Deposited in deeper water, it doesn't replace the eroding barrier islands as well, thus allowing the surge to approach unhindered.

      Wetlands and delta conservation has long been a favorite target of dittoheads and other conservative groups, who have viewed it as a liberal waste of money and barrier to economic development. I wonder if they'll start to change their tune after this.
      • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:52PM (#13493279)
        The Native American tribes told the French not to build there because they've been there enough to know...but did anyone listen?... of course not.

        I understand that it was the intersection of trade routes back in the day, but what is there today? I would move away from that place, I am sure so will other people. There still will be a "New Orleans" but from now on it will be known as the "Flooded New Orleans." I don't think it will ever recover completely...

        New Orleans was on the top of my list of places to visit in the next couple of years, but not anymore, I think I'll wait 10 years or so.

      • Wetlands and delta conservation has long been a favorite target of dittoheads and other conservative groups, who have viewed it as a liberal waste of money and barrier to economic development. I wonder if they'll start to change their tune after this.

        I'm going to bet the answer is no, they won't learn.

      • The storm surge wasn't the problem - the breach in the Lake Ponchatrain levee was the problem. The brunt of the surge missed, then the floods came a day later when the Lake filled up.

        I do agree with your points on erosion in general (and I am one of those evil red-state conservatives), but wetlands wouldn't likely have made a difference in this situation - Levee maintenance might have.

        • by Rei (128717)
          Lake Pontchartrain didn't "fill up". The storm surge overran it, and without wetlands to flood into, the water piled up to six feet over its normal level. The levee didn't just break - it overtopped.
        • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:30PM (#13493681) Journal
          Actually, levee maintenance was fine, according to the Army Corps of Engineers and others. The Lake Ponchatrain levee was complete and well maintained, exactly as specified in the 1970s plan. It failed exactly as it was expected to!

          City/State management chose to build a levee that was only designed for a category 3 hurricane. Sure enough, a category 4 hurricane broke the levee. This danger was understood when the levee was built, and considered an acceptable tradeoff for cost savings.

          We seem to have a real problem building infrastructure in this country when it's not needed on an everyday basis. Does any major city have roads capable of evacuating it's populace in a hurry? Remember the recent East Coast blackout - has any building of redundant capacity begun? Will any other city that decided protection from some hurricanes, but not others, was "good enough" change their minds? I doubt it - such programs are regularly denounced as pork. We just don't appreciate infrastructure, to the point where many people actually believe that roads cause traffic!
          • Actually, levee maintenance was fine, according to the Army Corps of Engineers and others.

            No. Levee maintenance and flood control for the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project was about $250 million dollars behind, due to the war in Iraq [editorandpublisher.com]. Specifically, the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project was funded by the Bush administration at levels far below those requested by the Army Corp of Engineers [thinkprogress.org].

            We just don't appreciate infrastructure, to the point where many people a

            • Re:Learn from nature (Score:3, Interesting)

              by lgw (121541)
              Specifically, the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project was funded by the Bush administration at levels far below those requested by the Army Corp of Engineers.

              Specifically the Lake Ponchatrain Levee was finished some time ago, and 2005 funding was irrelevent.

              Sure the Commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers [defenselink.mil] says funding levels were fine, but what does he know? He's just some engineer, uneducated in the overriding requirement to hate Smirchimply McHitlerBurton and all of his
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:33PM (#13493711) Homepage Journal
        The breach was not on the wetlands side but on the lake side. Even if the Delta was fully restored it wouldn't have made any difference this time.

        If the storm had come in more to the west then it might have made a difference but I really doubt it. A category 4 or category 5 storm hitting a major city is going to cause a vast amount of destruction. Fixing the delta is valuable for many reasons including protecting New Orleans from floods it's just that in this case it wouldn't have made any difference.

        We are in a natural cycle of more and stronger storms. It has happened before. As strong as Katrina was she was weaker than the Galveston Hurricane, the labor day Hurricane, and even Camile. Of course that is like saying an atomic bomb is smaller than the Ivy Mike test bomb.

        The thing that cost lives in New Orleans where the actions of the Mayor of New Orleans, and the Governor of Louisiana.

        No one that lives in New Orleans should have been bussed to the Superdome! The same buses that took people to the Superdome should have taken them out of the city to shelters outside the flood zone.

        The lack of police, food, water, and medical care in the Superdome was the fault of the Mayor of the city and the Governor of the state.

        FEMA's failure was in not realizing that the Governor and the Mayor cared more about the French Quarter than about people's lives. I get sickened every time I hear the Mayor say, "The good news is the French Quarter is is good shape. New Orleans will live again." Frankly I would have traded the French Quarter for the hospitals and peoples homes any day! What people that have never dealt with a Hurricane don't understand is FEMA is supposed to come in after the disaster and send supplies and help where the local authorities tell them. In this case the local authorities where criminally stupid or just criminals.

        • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:03PM (#13493994) Homepage
          Apparently you're woefully unaware that Lake Pontchartrain is (well, was) surrounded by wetlands [usgs.gov] on all sides. Oh, and in case you don't know what FEMA [fema.gov]'s job is and what they were *supposed* to be doing, here's a link:

          DISASTER. It strikes anytime, anywhere. It takes many forms -- a hurricane, an earthquake, a tornado, a flood, a fire or a hazardous spill, an act of nature or an act of terrorism. It builds over days or weeks, or hits suddenly, without warning. Every year, millions of Americans face disaster, and its terrifying consequences.

          On March 1, 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.

          Certainly the local and state governments deserve a huge amount of blame for not having concrete evacuation procedures ready for the poor, but the federal response - FEMA's only serious duty - was outright embarrassing. And I know you don't want to fault the administration, but their vacation schedule while people were dying was outright embarrassing - Bush, flying over *two days* after New Orleans flooded, was among the first, with Cheney still vacationing in Wyoming, Andrew Card vacationing in Maine, and Condi spending the day shoe shopping at Ferragamo's and watching Spamalot.

          The bomb wasn't just dropped - it was negligently tossed aside. As the city drowned and went to anarchy, no active duty military were sent in, and only a handful of poorly equipped national guard (the 256th's support brigade having most of their disaster recovery eq). FEMA toyed with the idea of getting school bus drivers to pick up people while squallor gathered at the superdome and thugs terrorized the convention center. Food and water weren't anywhere to be seen. Etc.

          There's a lot of blame to go around. A damn lot. People have a right to be furious, at a lot of people - local, state, and federal. And I join them.
        • by electroniceric (468976) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:13PM (#13494076)
          No one that lives in New Orleans should have been bussed to the Superdome! The same buses that took people to the Superdome should have taken them out of the city to shelters outside the flood zone.
          Volume flow: to move the same number of people 10 times further in approximately the same amount of time, you need 10 times more moving capacity.
          The lack of police, food, water, and medical care in the Superdome was the fault of the Mayor of the city and the Governor of the state.
          Mightn't it have just a little bitty bit to do with so much of the National Guard being over in Iraq, and with FEMA being run by a group of Bush campaign workers (read their bios) with no disaster management experience?

          For Pete's sake, this kind of thing is exactly FEMA's mandate: provide resources to avert and mitigate emergencies. In other words, FEMA should have had the place crawling with responders and National Guardsmen the moment the state of emergency was declared on August 26th. I'll bet you 25 bucks that the head of the agency not only keeps his job but gets a raise. Seriously, I'll make that bet.

          I say this and I'm one of the people who thinks that FEMA is way too quick to offer people money to rebuild their waterfront condos every time a flood or hurricane happens. But when push comes to shove, it is our nation and our government's responsibility to avoid the kind of human tragedy that happened in New Orleans, and that job primarily belongs to FEMA.
      • Silver lining? (Score:5, Informative)

        by quarkscat (697644) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:13PM (#13494080)
        The hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans at Force 4 levels. The wind, rain, and flooding were all managable, with the city's pumps clearing away the 2 to 3 feet of flood water. It was the storm surge that followed Katrina inland that breached the levees. The levee system, as well as the port facilities, were all "owned" by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and have been for decades.

        Dredging of shipping channels, construction of canals for the diversion of water, and continued construction of port facilities brought new economic development to New Orleans. But officials at all levels of government have known for a decade that the levee system needed to be upgraded in order to withstand the worst that nature could wreak on the city. Enough money was never made available for reconstruction of the wetlands or barrier islands, or for improving the levee system.

        Three times during the Bush administration funding has been slashed to 1/6th to 1/10th of needed levels to properly address the above issues. The loss of live may climb to ten thousand or more, with property damage in New Orleans proper that could reach $15 Billion USD. It would not be the first time that the neo-conservatives have been exposed to accusations of being "penny wise and pound foolish". The fiscal liability exposure by commercial insurance companies will likely result in several of these companies filing bankruptcy.

        Whatever funds that the US Congress and the Bush administration spend on reconstruction in New Orleans will likely be dwarfed by commercial enterprises. The US Supreme Court has opened the way for local/state government to seize private property and turn it over to "more commercially viable" private enterprise. While the taxpayer burdeon may be mitigated by such actions, the notion of private ownership rights, due process, and equal treatment under the law are all due to be sorely tested as the cleanup and rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast proceed. The current regime in power has never made any bones about favoring big commercial interests over those of the individual. Times that try the boundaries of the US Constitution and the Bill or Rights versus the power of big corporate-owned government are coming...
    • Re:Learn from nature (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:40PM (#13493157) Journal
      "Long before anyone built levees and floodgates, barrier islands were serving to block dangerous storm surges. Of course, those islands often fall victim to coastal development. "

      Levees and floodgates, as used in the US, do not generally mitigate the damage caused by storm surges -- they are used to block flooding from inland sources like rivers.

      "...some artificial barrier islands, rather than further changing the face of the earth"

      Artificial barrier islands = changing the face of the earth

      Barrier islands migrate into the land over time. They are really just giant versions of the sand ripples you'll see at the edge of almost any (near still) body of water. If we really want our coastlines to operate in a natural fashion, we've got to allow barrier islands to form, move to land, and respawn.

      The real problem with NOLA is that the Mississippi River delta is not allowed to regenerate itself by silt deposition. Most conservationists would argue that less flood control is necessary, not more.
  • by EccentricAnomaly (451326) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:28PM (#13493027) Homepage
    I noticed another NYT story on lost cities, which would be interesting to the 'abandon New Orleans' camp:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/science/06lost.h tml [nytimes.com]
    • Yeah, but we'd be better off to start looking into Easter Island and why they got wiped off the face of the planet. We're following their footsteps so close ly it's not funny.
    • by interiot (50685) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:48PM (#13493237) Homepage
      For what it's worth, 50 years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers had to do quite a bit of work [wikipedia.org] to keep the Mississippi River flowing past New Orleans. If they would have let Mississippi move to the west, New Orleans would have dwindled economically, and shipping would have moved over to the new branch of the Mississippi. I don't know if New New Orleans would have been terribly much safer. It would still probably be stuck in a bayou, though it at least wouldn't have been stuck between the river and Lake Ponchartrain.
  • I know... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:29PM (#13493032)
    Fill everything up with Jello Powder!
  • by sdirrim (909976)
    We should take a lesson from this. Expanionism can be bad. Has anyone noticed the tred of increaingly powerful storms over the last 50 years? Global warming is one possible factor. I am not saying it caused Katrina, but warmer waters may have contibuted.
    • While I understand what you are saying the logic of your statement is as follows:

      1. I have observed X.
      2. X can be caused by Y.
      3. Z can be Bad.

      X = Storms Increasing
      Y = Global Warming
      Z = Expansion.

      To complete your logial statement you need to do the following: Tie Z into X a relationship with to Y. And provide support for each point.

      But one point that should be reviewed is that experts have observed that storms in this region of the world go on 25 - 30 year cycles caused by a stabilzation of the gulf stream
    • by Anonymous Coward

      We should take a lesson from this. Expanionism can be bad. Has anyone noticed the tred of increaingly powerful storms over the last 50 years? Global warming is one possible factor. I am not saying it caused Katrina, but warmer waters may have contibuted.

      Of course warmer waters contributed. The question is "did we somehow make them warmer" and the answer is, "if we did, it was by an amout too small to measure."

      "Trend" is much, much too strong a word to use in conjunction with weather over the past 50 years.

    • No, I haven't noticed the trend of increasingly powerful storms. There doesn't appear to be any clear evidence that is happening. I HAVE noticed the trend of increasingly large human populations, expanding to ever more areas of undeveloped land, and increasing the chances that a disaster will happen in a populated area.
    • by Cruciform (42896)
      Hurricane strength has followed a roughly 70 year cycle for hundreds of years.

      This was recently covered in National Geographic. It's not a global warming issue.
  • by lbmouse (473316) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:29PM (#13493040) Homepage
    ...a heroic captain who plugged a breach in a dike with his ship.
    Sounds like the trashy novels my wife reads. Was his ship full of sea men?
  • Until you commit to proper management of the New Orleans area. The land under the whole area will continue to subside until this is addressed.
  • OK, I got the male and female pink unicorns on the boat. Tell those giraffe herders to hurry up! The water's rising!
  • by LithiumX (717017) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:32PM (#13493076)
    You could never get that kind of money allocated towards a protective non-millitary venture, not in the US.

    At least, not until something happens. Now that we've had our distaster, and once we've counted the casualty list, I'm sure congress will be more willing to talk dollars.

    Then again, it's easier to allocate massive funding to protect your entire country from flooding (ie Holland, etc), than it is to allocate it to protect one relatively poor area. And admit it, that is one of the poorest areas of this country, and without more electoral votes they don't stand a chance.
    • Don't be so sure they don't have the votes. I live in NY, but I have family that until recently (they fled ahead of time) lived pretty close to New Orleans.

      So you've got residents and their families, and even a lot of people who don't live there and don't have relatives still feel sympathy for what's happened in the area. There's quite a bit of leverage to get things done.
    • Protecting the city of New Orleans from flooding was the responsibility of the city and state, not the federal government. It's (the corps of engineers) responsibility was to maintain a shipping channel for barges on the Mississippi. And the levees were built for the shipping channel.

      New Orleans failed its residents by not building their own levee system (or coordinating with the corps of engineering). The city's system should be built adequate to protect the city from flooding in the event of a major hur

    • Yes, but you're forgetting one important aspect to this: it took out ten petroleum refineries. New Orleans is also a major petroleum import center. It may be a "poor" area, but given its importance to the economic well-being of the rest of the country I suspect there will be plenty of money coming in. I'm currently paying about $3.50 per gallon for gas, and the country is already short of refinery capacity: so it'll get fixed.

      Bad as the disaster is, there is some good that will hopefully come of it. The
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:33PM (#13493082) Journal
    (1) I'm not so sure we want to be taking flood control advice from Bangladesh.

    (2) I'm not sure that attempting to control nature is the best route here. Sure, there are significant historical and cultural aspects of NOLA that we don't want to lose, but wouldn't it be cheaper (and safer) to move them to a different location?

    Flood plains, barrier islands, river paths: all of these are not static features. We have an abundance of land (as opposed to some of the examples cited). If we rebuild NOLA in the same location, aren't we just pissing into the wind?
    • by Tx (96709)
      (1) I'm not so sure we want to be taking flood control advice from Bangladesh.

      Based on what I've been seeing on CNN the last few days, I honestly can't see why not.

      (2) I'm not sure that attempting to control nature is the best route here. Sure, there are significant historical and cultural aspects of NOLA that we don't want to lose, but wouldn't it be cheaper (and safer) to move them to a different location?

      As the article mentions, half of Holland is below sea level - obviously they don't have the option o
      • As the article mentions, half of Holland is below sea level - obviously they don't have the option of relocating, but they prove that adequate flood defences can be built. The cost really isn't that big, a tiny fraction of what Bush is spending in Iraq would provide adequate flood defences for the area. Seems to me like a perfectly reasonable way to spend money, compared to some things I could mention.

        Right on! After the 1953 flooding [wikipedia.org] of over 2000km2 of polders, planning of the Delta Works [deltawerken.com] was started. Dik

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Who cares about the cultural aspects of New Orleans? It is the US's largest port for a reason. Until teleportation becomes a viable technology or the Midwest becomes a desert there's going to be a city there. The fact that its culturally viabrant and has maintained much of historical character is just a bonus.
  • Hypocracy of the NYT (Score:3, Informative)

    by amightywind (691887) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:33PM (#13493087) Journal

    It is interesting that the NYT is now dispensing advice on how to fix flood control problems in New Orleans when they have a long record [foxnews.com] of recommending against improvements. They will argue all sides of an issue if it suits their political agenda, but they have no credibility.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Definition of ironic: using a Fox News article to point out hypocracy.

      Who knew NYT had so much power in Congress. Fox News is overflowing with credibility.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:06PM (#13493435)
      I just read the blurb and it's totally unconvincing. the NYT was against the recent highway and energy bills because they're piles of waste, nto because of any one project involved.

      Fox News has such a hard-on for the NYT it's unbelievable. When they put together any kind of reporting operation instead of 4 hours of loudmouthed opinion on prime time I'll think about taking them seriously.
    • I noticed that Fox didn't reference the NYT articles in question. Even so, they DID mention that at least one of the two articles was an EDITORIAL. You know, an opinion? It's entirely possible that the NYT has employed more than one reporter since 1993.
      Just a thought.
    • by forand (530402)
      So you want us to trust Fox News that it has got BOTH the facts and the context straight? I can't look at the NYT articles because they were not linked to, quoted, or otherwise referenced in the article you linked to, but it is possible that the NYT would be against flood control spending in general but not discuss New Orleans in particular. This might makes sense if you were talking about flood control to stop flooding in places like Marin County in California which does not need federal dollars to fix it
    • by Leers (159585) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:53PM (#13493902)
      Long record? Two editorials in 15 years? Saying a bill that had God knows what else in it besides flood control was "bad legislation?" Oh and are they opt-ed or actual editorials? opt-ed are the opinions of the editorial writers not the paper. Two editorial writers do need the non-conflicting view points. In fact, one of the signs of an unbiased paper IS having editorial writers that disagree!

      It will take more then a random quotes from the Fox news spin factory to make me believe that. NYT may be a bit biased but its way more objective then anything that ever came out of Fox news.
    • They will argue all sides of an issue if it suits their political agenda, but they have no credibility.

      I'll take someone who will argue both sides of an issue than one that does not.
    • This article is intentionally misleading propaganda.

      "New Orleans' local newspaper, the Times-Picayune (search), says every FEMA official should be fired for their, "feeble response to Hurricane Katrina." And the paper's editors say the aftermath is "ultimately the president's failure.""

      I don't know if that's true because I can't find any google hits for these quotes. The article where they call for the firing of every FEMA official is here [editorandpublisher.com]. Maybe they did so also somewhere else, but those quotes are not in
  • One difference... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rapturizer (733607) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:33PM (#13493089)
    New Orleans sits on hundreds of feet of muck (about 600 ft) and lacks access to the bedrock. Combined this with the channelization of the Mississippi and the levees, the city will sink if water is continuously pumped out. Ultimately, if we do not address the issue that the above have caused the wetlands to decrease, New Orleans will be a coastal city that sits below sea level in 2040. Best solution: rebuild on higher groud. Moral of the story: man can attempt to thwart mother nature, but like all parents, punishment may be severe.
  • From the government publication http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs2-00/ [usgs.gov]

    Melting of the current Greenland ice sheet would result in a sea-level rise of about 6.5 meters

    That's about 21 feet, the effects of which you can guess by looking at the nice map included with this publication that outlines the affected areas of the South in red.

    Can anyone think of a solution that would cover all of that coastline shown on the map? That's a lot of coastline. Better not to pick a fight with nature in the first place,

  • by ausoleil (322752) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:43PM (#13493184) Homepage
    New Orleans has been a disaster waiting to happen, as everyone now knows. And it is a city that lies in palpable danger during any hurricane season, now or in the future. Sure, we could learn from the Dutch and from others, but will we?

    Our country has a history of trying to do things on the cheap, to pay as little as possible now and to postpone the inevitable for another generation. Now, New Orleans paid the price. We have bridges, highways, water systems and any number of infrastructure needs in the US that we quite effectively ignore on a daily basis.

    Don't believe me? Think about how long it has taken California to replace the Bay Bridge after the '89 quake -- it was deemed unsafe then and it was decided to build a new one. This is comparable in scope to the levee system of New Orleans and the new Bay Bridge has taken over fifteen years to replace. Expect the same, Big Easy.

    Blame is being passed around, something that politicians excel at. However, the Feds are not the only ones at fault. One must consider the city's priorities when they built a sports arena and did not work on their levees. One must also consider the refusal of the citizens to pay higher taxes to do both. The federal government cut funding, but if the city had REALLY wanted to fix their levees before Katrina, they could have made some hard choices. Instead, they chose to court the Charlotte Hornets and get them to move to the Big Easy. Just as a "for example."

    Now, a massive rebuilding effort needs to take place, and one after the rescue and mitigation efforts are completed. The rebuilding will probably outpace the fortification of the levees, as people will want to rebuild their homes and that doing that on an indiovidual basis is smaller and easier than re-engineering levees.

    However, before they do that they should consider that their new homes are in as much danger as the ones that they lost until they get their flood control issues resolved. This should be priority one for the city, the state of Louisiana and to a large degree the federal government. The cost will be in the billions, and I for one will be very surprised if the money is easily available.

    Even if it is, it will take the better part of two decades -- or about twenty hurricane seasons -- for these new systems to be in place. In the meantime, NOLA better hope that another Katrina does not find their city.
    • I'm just hoping that common sene taks over and we do NOT rebuild New Orleans. It was a mistake to build and would be a mistake to rebuild. Considering the unfathomable environmental damage that has been done since NO was built and now that we're pumping BILLIONS of gallons of highly toxic water back into the lake and into the Gulf, we'd have to be fucking insane to allow billions or trillions of our tax dollars to go towards rebuilding this thing. Why waste decades of effort and billions of dollars to prote
  • Build it 40 miles upriver.
    • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:55PM (#13493318) Journal
      OK a light hearted comment, but I just read in the NYT a great column on the contrast: NYC was hit with fire, NO hit with water.

      NYC could deal with fire, because we've learned to fight fires locally. We build to prevent it, and we all pay a premium on goods and services through the system due to the costs of sprinkler systems etc in the supply chain. We spend city $$ on fire services, and emergency response capabilities.

      NO couldn't deal with water, because since the 60's the Federal gov't has taken over response to floods. Local officials are reduced to writing plans that ultimately read "wait for the Feds to arrive with help".

      Moreover, with an agency like FEMA, and federal subsidies for flood insurance, he makes a persuasive argument that US gov't policies have, in effect ENCOURAGED the building of homes and businesses in flood prone and coastal regions.

      If those homeowners and businesses had to pay a MARKET cost for insurance, how many would have built there? And if there wasn't a FEMA (which has historically compensated flood/hurricane victims even or especially if uninsured) would people be so lasseiz-faire about their families, dwellings, and belongings in the path of destruction?

      Persuasive reading.
  • Science: Rebuilding New Orleans With Science

    Editors...please, that's got to be the cheesiest title yet. We have the science, we have had the science, but a republican dominated government refused to provide the funding that would have allowed the Army Corp. of Engineers to Build levies that both the Governor and Mayor have been requesting for years before this happened.

    Instead of fanning the typical Slashdot "We're so cool because we know science" circle-jerk, maybe you could greenlight an article that foc
    • New Orleans has needed flood control for hundreds of years. Blaming a man who has been in office for 5 is hardly fair. Blame people like me, who would have voted against spending so much federal money on a project, even in hindsight.

      The real problem here is that people failed to evacuate. We should be having a discussion about why these people did not/could not evacuate, and how to prevent such a scenario in the future. A hurricane is one of the easiest natural disasters to avoid, and we really have no good

  • " Listen, lad. I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started here, all there was was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp, but the fourth one... stayed up! And that's what you're gonna get, lad: the strongest castle in these islands."

    Let's use this tragedy to move the pe
  • Bottoming Out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @03:58PM (#13493346) Homepage Journal
    The broken canal walls are all up near the Lake seawall built in the 1930s, reclaiming land once swamp (and lake bottom). City Park is a giant park through which the Bayou St. John still flows, along its ancient path, into the middle of town (thru some big pipes in places) to the center of the bowl, the bottom of New Orleans. All that is totally under water now: the 17th Street Canal was the main burst that flooded the town, and runs along the West edge of City Park, past the Bayou.

    We should expand City Park to encompass the entire Bayou area, with no development, and lots of canals. Expand the Bayou itself in the bottom to become a giant reservoir. When storms approach, pump out the reservoir. Make all drains pass through the reservoir, a giant buffer. When rain and failed seawalls allow water into the city, funnel it into the reservoir, buying time. Pump the reservoir into the Mississippi and the Lake.

    The seawalls and levees themselves are not fault-tolerant. They're static, brittle, and take the whole city with them when they break. Those walls should all have rail lines along their inhabited sides, separated from the water by the wall. When a storm approaches, dumpable sandbags can be rolled into place behind risky sections, or into broken sections, or just into staging areas for delivery by helicopter, boat or amphibious vehicle, or even human "bucket brigades" when all other vehicles fail. Ahead of the storm, the rails can carry cars of evacuees out. And the other 99.5% of the time, without emergencies, they can carry cars instead of highways (most cars on I-10 are "just passing through"), passengers and freight.

    Or we can just put the Dutch in charge of the city. Then they'll do all those things I mentioned, and probably something with windmills. Amsterdam and New Orleans have a lot more in common than just negative elevation - and I'm not referring just to decades of Spanish dominion ;). But at least the Dutch will actually do it: they actually do things. Instead of leaving it up to the Army Corps of Engineers, which now must be spelled Corps e , which totally failed their mission - though it looks like they were set up for failure by the civilian leadership, for decades.

    Or we can just let New Orleans rot. Along with the rest of the country. If it can happen to a city everyone loves so much, that's so important to our economy, where everyone knew it was RISK #1, why shouldn't it happen everywhere eventually - and not as slowly as in the old World Capital of Molasses.
    • Not to totally remove blame from the corps, but you do know their New Orleans buffer budget has been repeatedly cut for the past several years, don't you? Or have you fallen victim to the White House spin zone already?
      • Re:Bottoming Out (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Oh, no - the White House *is* the "civilian leadership", along with Rumsfeld. Personally, I want to see all those criminals drowned in an alligator tank. But that's not going to get New Orleans rebuilt right, except for the part where they're removed from office.

        I've already heard that Halliburton is getting the contracts to rebuild "Baghdad by the Bayou", which is a crime itself. These people look at disaster mitigation neglect as marketing. And our lives (now undeniably) hang in the balance. We've got to
  • they should use Lego.
  • by Mekkis (769156) <cyranoei@hotmail.com> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:02PM (#13493392) Journal
    What's the point in rebuilding? The city's already been destroyed and the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the central Atlantic & Gulf of Mexico means that we're just asking for another disaster. Whether or not you subscribe to global warming being human-induced is beside the point; the temperature of the Earth is increasing, as is the destructiveness of the weather.

    The Netherlands argument just doesn't hold water (no pun intended) because that part of the world isn't subject to the same type of weather conditions - in other words, there ain't no hurricanes in the North Sea. There are also the economic factors to consider. The United States is in debt over its head and frankly doesn't have the financial resources to waste on rebuilding a city which would then require greater and greater expenditures of capital to keep from being inundated as the ocean level rises.

    Rebuilding New Orleans shows stubbornness well beyond the border of idiocy and is a stunning example of the old axiom: "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It also shows the tremendous amount of greed involved; whether or not New Orleans is rebuilt, the impoverished who have borne the brunt of this disaster will be left out of the process, except maybe as a disposable work force to exploit in the building of new condos and upscale developments that the real estate markets in New Orleans have been looking for an excuse to install -- especially since builders can use such low-wage exploitation as a tax write-off.

    Then there's also the fact that developers were allowed to build in hazardous locations to begin with -- what with the Bush Administration doing away with the Federal land easements (wetlands) that existed as a storm surge buffer and turning it over to developers.

    Sacramento, California is an example of just such short-sightedness. The Sacramento River flood plains are catastrophically inundated every ten to fifteen years or so. Despite this fact, developers have been allowed to build there because they've bought and/or sued the city & county into letting them do whatever in the hell they want. The developers have also stifled the environmental and news reports as well as done their best to obscure the historical record because such information conflicts with their immediate profit interests. The result? Houses get flooded, families are ruined and the taxpayers are left with the responsibility.

    Frankly, developers don't give a shit whether five or ten years down the line those houses are flooded out and destroyed, incidentally sending into financial ruin the families gullible, desperate, uninformed and/or stupid enough to be living there. They've made their profits and get to hide comfortably behind the lawsuit protection laws established to prevent consumers from holding developers responsible for faulty and/or dangerous housing. Besides, the government will pay for disaster relief and subsidize the rebuilding efforts for a new generation of suckers -- because once those houses have been built, by God they've got to stay there.

    With the the Bush Administration doing the best it can to aid unscrupulous businesspeople by circumventing legal measures set up to prevent people from putting themselves into harm's way, is it any wonder there's such a cry to rebuild New Orleans? You've got people who stand to make a killing by exploiting this very preventable disaster. But then again, I guess caveat emptor is the ultimate answer and anything else is heresy to the religion of the Free Market.

    Let this also serve as a reminder those who believe overpopulation is a myth that not every square mile of the Earth's surface is inhabitable or arable.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:04PM (#13493414)
    The Dutch are facing some pretty severe long term issues with their system of flood control - the land behind the dikes is subsiding, and the global warming is causing sea levels to rise. To me the whole proposition that you can build for long term stability in a location like New Orleans is very questionable.

  • by StevenMaurer (115071) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:16PM (#13493534) Homepage
    The low-built Pentagon was hit just like the WTC buildings on 9/11 and it didn't collapse to the ground. So if we're going to say New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt under water, why are we building gravity-defying skyscrapers?

    And remember, "nature" doesn't want so many people on the Earth. We're way beyond what most species' population limits. Should we just let half the human population die off?

    Personally, I'm all in favor of respecting nature. But I don't think we should surrender to it.

  • Low tech solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HermanAB (661181) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @04:58PM (#13493949)
    Stilts. Simply mandating that all dwellings must be built 3 feet above the 2005 flood level will go a long way to mitigating damage. All houses there are built on piles and a concrete slab anyway, so just make the damn piles taller. Then if they do flood again, little damage will be done.
  • by thelizman (304517) <hammerattack@yahoOPENBSDo.com minus bsd> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @05:20PM (#13494135) Homepage
    First off, anyone asking the question "why rebuild" ought to be thumped soundly with a good sized stick. N'awlins is a strategic point economically. It only makes sense to build there, even with the 50 year risk of major flooding. Secondly, what needs to be rebuild represents a fraction of the total value of what is already built and has survived. So rebuilding is simply not an option - it's an inevitability.

    The answer to "how" might seem more novel - and less expensive - than most people think. Simply accept that the area is going to flood. Now build the city such that water and flooding becomes an integral part of the urban planning. Canals and locks can move heavy goods more efficiently than trucks. Build physical plants on elevated earthen damns, and just accept that streets and parking lots are going to flood out. Ban residential construction in flood-prone areas (should be a no brainer). Convert existing structures such that the first two floors above ground (or within the 20ft flood stage) are used for parking and industrial plant works. Lastly, use locks on the channels so that when (not if) a levy breaks, that section is automatically sealed off.

    Engineering a city isn't impossible. It's hardly difficult. It merely takes the will to do it.
  • Adapt! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by J05H (5625) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @08:11PM (#13495548) Homepage
    Here's the deal: we need to live with nature. One aspect of this is that cities will get destroyed - the ruins of destroyed ancient cities ring the Earth.

    New Orleans as it is should be adandoned. The high ground of the french quarter might be preserved. The deep water port and industrial areas like Michoud are restored. These areas have proper seawalls built with regard to natural silt flows, the rest of the city becomes Delta again. People that live in the area live the way you're supposed to in a swamp: in boats and house-barges. The swamp dwellers seem to have faired well, and came out of the woods to help evacuate the city. If the population was competent enough to live in the swamp instead of against it, they could flourish. As it is, they have probably crippled the shrimping and subsidence issues doom much of the city. Imagine a million houseboats stretching through a restored river system. People commute to work by boat, work in hi-tech, shipping and restored shrimp industries. Let the Mississippi wander as it needs, build the deep-water port out in the ocean and have lighter barges for carrying containers and oil in-shore. If people want to live there, they should adapt to life on the water.

    I want to see a JMOB/SeaHub container facility in the Gulf of Mexico. This technology can be applied to housing, shipping, huge mobile hospitals, etc. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/01/07/wo_ schrope072501.asp [technologyreview.com]


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