The most important thing to remember about the drowning of New Orleans is that it wasn't a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster, created by lousy engineering, misplaced priorities and pork-barrel politics. Katrina was not the Category 5 killer the Big Easy had always feared; it was a Category 3 storm that missed New Orleans, where it was at worst a weak 2. The city's defenses should have withstood its surges, and if they had we never would have seen the squalor in the Superdome, the desperation on the rooftops, the shocking tableau of the Mardi Gras city underwater for weeks.However, the scientific explanation they provide for the sinking of NOLA (and southeast Louisiana and surrounding areas) is not correct:
The straitjacketed river now carries less than half its original sediment load down to Louisiana. So there's little new land-building material to offset the natural erosion of the coast, much less the unnatural rising of the sea fueled by global warming.This does not address subsidence, and that is a serious omission. The subsidence in SE Louisiana is caused by the sediment that has flowed down to the mouth of the river for centuries. The extra weight of the land is continuing to cause that area to sink, regardless of whether it is in a swamp that has been drained or not, and the area affected by this subsidence includes the Mississippi coastline as well, and likely all the way to the Florida coastline. As an expert in this area noted to me after reading the article, "If all the possible problems are not included then all of the possible solutions are faulty."
The result is that New Orleans is sinking, and about 30% of the coast's wetlands have slipped into the Gulf...
Louisiana Senators Vitter and Mary Landrieu promptly proposed a bloated quarter-trillion-dollar Louisiana reconstruction bill, drafted by lobbyists for oil, shipping and other corporate interests. The request included $40 billion for the Corps�10 times the agency's budget for the rest of the nation�including nonreconstruction projects like the Industrial Canal lock and a New Iberia port deepening that had flunked the Corps' cost-benefit tests. It also included pre-Katrina coastal levee schemes, with names like Morganza-to-the-Gulf and Donaldsonville-to-the-Gulf to suggest their grandiose sweep. The bill stalled after it was widely mocked as legislative looting, but it sent the message that pre-Katrina priorities were still in effect. Vitter kept pushing a measure to help timber companies harvest cypress swamps. Landrieu tucked language into emergency bills ordering the Corps to redo its New Iberia analysis and fast-tracking the Industrial Canal lock. "Katrina was just a perfect excuse to pull the old pork off the shelf in the name of otherwise-we-drown," says Tulane law professor Oliver Houck, the sage of Louisiana environmentalism. "And away we go: another Louisiana hayride."The article is packed with information and well worth reading. Will it result in any action to address the issues it raised? Only time will tell.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.