March 31, 2006

New Orleans: Out of Time?

As they say, timing is everything:

A full recovery in New Orleans could take 25 years as homeowners, businesses and tourists are coaxed back to the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration's Gulf Coast recovery coordinator said Thursday. "We kind of want it to happen overnight, or I do, but it's going to take some time," White House coordinator Don Powell said in an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors. "This could be five to 25 years for it all to fit into place."

Powell added: "It's been a bottom-up process and it's complex."

Well, the "bottom" part is right. Guess where New Orleans will be in the next half-century or so?

Give yourself two points if you correctly answered "The Gulf of Mexico."

The original (snark-free) version of this Louisiana wetlands projection comes courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is used at LSU's Louisiana Energy & Environmental
Resource & Information Center (LEERIC) in this article.

Back in September I interviewed the former chair of a Coastal and Marine Studies Department, and asked him the following question:

1. Are estimates that the continued rate of wetland loss in Louisiana will place New Orleans on or in the Gulf of Mexico in the 2050-2090 time frame accurate?

He responded:

The estimates are probably accurate. There are three main factors: Global sea level rise, delta subsidence, Mississippi River sedimentation. Sea level is rising, the delta is sinking and the river is depositing much less sediment on the delta now than in the past (for multiple reasons).

In other words, by the time New Orleans can recover from Hurricane Katrina, it may do so just in time to disappear under the waves of the Gulf of Mexico forever.

I don't have any problems with spending our tax dollars to rebuild New Orleans, I just don't think it wise to rebuild the city in the same nearly indefensible location.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at March 31, 2006 12:59 AM | TrackBack

This prediction is if nothing is done to protect and restore the wetlands. "Nothing" is exactly what the US government course of action has been since Katrina. I live in your yellow circle and I can tell you, as a conservative Republican, I will never trust a word this government says again. All they do is say the correct, caring flowery words and desert you to your own devices. They know America will move on. Well America has moved on and the gulf coast is left to suffer and die. Thanks for nothing America.

Posted by: doctorj at March 31, 2006 08:44 AM

Well, doctorj, America hater, don't let the door hit your behind as you "Move On"!

Posted by: Tom TB at March 31, 2006 09:01 AM


You must not be a geologist. The wet lands are vanishing because of the levies. They are vanishing due to natural subsidence. The only way to restore them is by dumping sediment on them. You can not save them with plants or any of these other crazy environmentalist ideas.

When the core forced the river to stay where it is, instead of going down the Atchafalaya system, the river began dumping it’s sedimentation over the shelf break. All of the “dirt” that used to deposit on Louisiana is now deposited on the abyssal plane of the gulf of Mexico.

The river was forced to stay in its present location, in order to save New Orleans, the port, in the first place. Therefore, all they did was buy time. I would love to hear from you how the US government is supposed to stop mud, South Louisiana, from sliding off into the Gulf of Mexico. Or how they are supposed to keep the second longest river in the world from going where it wants.

The present day Atchafalaya River, which is where the Mississippi wants to go, has the only healthy wet lands in the state. It is also the only place that the state is growing.


Posted by: Russell E. Wilson at March 31, 2006 09:13 AM

I live in Louisiana. I know that if you send a bunch of money or anything else into our state that the politicians will take most of it. New Orleans is not sinking. It has sunk. Only small portions are above sea level and that will difinitely change soon. It is rediculous to spend money in that area. The New Orleans of historical fame died in the mid 1970's. The thing that was distroyed by Katrina was a tribute to our idiotic social programs to the extent that no one could enter the city without a gun. Despite recent claims that the danger was blown out of proportion, it was real and I have the personal history of several people to attest to this. Before Katrina you could not go into most of the city without being killed. Therefore let it die, do not give large sums of money to this thing!!

Posted by: David Caskey at March 31, 2006 10:47 AM

I agree with David Caskey that rebuilding New Orleans or any of the ravaged delta area is a huge mistake considering the current ecological use of the Mississippi. It is really the channeling of the Mississippi with levis all the way up to St. Louis and beyond that is the root source of the problem. The Mississippi delta was created when the Mississippi river was flowing free without restraints and it would take something like that to restore it.

Posted by: docdave at April 1, 2006 08:57 PM