Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Additional Thoughts On Katrina Anniversary

Here are some additional thoughts to those I composed earlier this week. Red tape continues to hamper the relief and recovery efforts. No surprise there.

What is a surprise is just how many folks appear to conflate the amount of aid that the federal government allocated for the purpose of rebuilding and the amount of money spent. The former is the not equal to the amount of the latter. $200 billion may have been authorized by Congress to spend on rebuilding, but that does not mean that all that amount will go to New Orleans, or even that it has all been spent. Thus far, only a fraction of that amount has been spent across the entire region, and only a fraction of that amount has been drawn upon by Louisiana and New Orleans. Some of the money is being stalled by bickering between Gov. Blanco and Whiplash Nagin.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other folks writing about the anniversary. Bob Owens still thinks rebuilding New Orleans in its current location makes little sense given the geological makeup of the region and subsidence rates. Paul at Wizbang makes the argument that Katrina actually saved lives because the levees were dangerous even under normal conditions and the hurricane meant that far fewer people were in the path of the raging floodwaters than otherwise would have been. He bases his argument on a video showing the first stages of a failing levee, and that the water levels in that particular area were not overtopping the levees, or even at their high water marks.

Paul's point about levee integrity is relevant even today. The levees still aren't built to withstand category three storms; the levees failed during Katrina when the storm was only a category one storm over New Orleans. The Corps is late in getting flood control projects completed, including new pumps that are supposed to work to pump water out of New Orleans when flood gates are closed. That loud sighing sound you heard earlier this week was that of the Corps administrators knowing they dodged a huge bullet.

Oh, and there are still issues with paperwork at the Louisiana state and local level. Red tape at the state and local level has finally been navigated so that construction of improved flood control can begin. And New Orleans isn't included in the areas where the bureaucratic issues have been resolved:
After several weeks of negotiations, amendments to existing cooperative agreements have now been signed between the corps and local governments that will let contractors begin lifting subsiding levees, do pump station work, and shore up some flimsy floodwall in East Jefferson, as well as finish building 11 miles of levees on the east bank of St. Charles Parish.

But none of the new work can begin in Orleans, St. Bernard Parish or on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, and no new Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control, or SELA, projects in Jefferson or Orleans parishes can be let until local, state and federal authorities resolve remaining disputes and amend their Cooperative Project Agreements as well.
Constructing new wetlands barrier space is probably the best idea I've seen in a while. It's potentially far cheaper to create the wetlands than to build new levees, and it opens up ecological and wildlife areas that would be a boon to fishermen and outdoorsmen, not to mention birders and nature lovers. Wetlands can absorb and provide a buffer against storm surges, and lessen the impact of hurricanes. The downside is that they, like barrier beaches, are temporary and will flow and ebb depending upon storms. If done right, however, they could provide advantages that levees cannot.

President Bush, meanwhile, pledges a better government response. Well, what about the state and local level? As we've seen elsewhere, the ability to deal with natural disaster varies greatly and depends upon the abilities of the local leaders to actually lead. New Orleans and Louisiana suffered for the lack of leadership.

Brenadan Loy, who blogged the hurricane landfall and the aftereffects (and blogs on hurricanes generally), has much more, including an appearance in the Spike Lee joint on Katrina's effects on New Orleans. Oh, and he gives Spike a thumbs down on the fairness and balance of the 'documentary.'

Others blogging: DJ Drummond, Sister Toldjah, Hot Air, Gateway Pundit, and A Brief Period of Me.

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