Thursday, June 30, 2005


I love New Orleans. Primarily as a tourist, I enjoy walking through the French Quarter enjoying the sights and sounds and smells. My wife's favorite jewelry store is there, and when we are in the Quarter, we normally wander past the window and pick up some little trinket to commemorate our stay there.

The food is magnificent, the music is toe-tapping, and the streets are made for walking. The French Market is a delight and the window shopping is second to none.


New Orleans is due for a fall. It might happen this year, it might happen next year, but it is gonna happen, because the city is sinking. Currently below sea level, the downtown area is hemmed in by levees that hold the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain at bay. Upriver about a hundred miles sits the Morganza Control Structure that keeps the Mississippi River out of the Atchafalaya river channel. The Mississippi has been trying to change course since before I was born.

Here's the scenario: A big hurricane hits the coast of Louisiana somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi and comes up the river, bringing a storm surge and torrential rains. Or, it comes in near Lake Borgne, sending a storm surge into Ponchartrain. Either way, New Orleans is screwed.

If the storm continues north, it may well take out the Morganza structure, and Morgan City is in for a shock as well.

Louisiana is losing marshland at an astounding rate, and I don't know if we can ever recover it. We can't without massive grants of money, and it doesn't look like that is going to happen anytime soon. Even with massive grants of money, there is no guarantee that the marshland will be restored, nor that a big hurricane will not put asunder what man had rendered.

Granted, it is a doomsday scenario, but a steadily sinking city in the midst of declining brackish marshes is surely a disaster waiting to happen. Granted that money is a limited resource, should we be spending it on marshland restoration?

Just asking the question.

1 comment:

oyster said...

Yes, we should make coastal wetlands restoration a top-tier issue, which basically involves making Congress and the President realize it's a top-tier issue. That has been enormously difficult thus far, but Blanco Landrieu and Vitter have worked very hard on that front, and I commend them. THe longer we wait on this, the more expensive it will be to fix it. I'm confident that with enough will, we shall find a way.

New Orleans' location was a helluva choice to build a city. And it will always flood and may be ultimately doomed-- but we should try to preserve it. In its own way, its irreplaceable.

Glad you came down to visit!