Following up on yesterday’s posting about the lack of preparedness for Katrina, Rifftides reader Garret Gannuch points us toward an October 2001 Scientific American article. The piece by Mark Fischetti provides additional detail about what it will take to help nature rebuild parts of the Mississippi Delta and to protect New Orleans from the river and Lake Pontchartrain. The challenge is rooted as deeply in human nature as in physical and fiscal difficulty.
Since the late 1980s Louisiana’s senators have made various pleas to Congress to fund massive remedial work. But they were not backed by a unified voice. L.S.U. (Louisiana State University) had its surge models, and the Corps had others. Despite agreement on general solutions, competition abounded as to whose specific projects would be most effective. The Corps sometimes painted academics’ cries about disaster as veiled pitches for research money. Academia occasionally retorted that the Corps’s solution to everything was to bulldoze more dirt and pour more concrete, without scientific rationale. Meanwhile oystermen and shrimpers complained that the proposals from both the scientists and the engineers would ruin their fishing grounds.
Mr. Bush said yesterday that “bureaucracy’s not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people.” Let us hope that he and the Congress are able to unify the myriad special interestsâ€”political, governmental, bureaucratic, industrial and scientificâ€”that have collided to discourage correction of what man has done to the Mississippi. Here’s a bit more from Fischetti’s Scientific American piece. Remember, he wrote this four years ago.
If Congress and President George W. Bush hear a unified call for action, authorizing it would seem prudent. Restoring coastal Louisiana would protect the country’s seafood and shipping industries and its oil and natural-gas supply. It would also save America’s largest wetlands, a bold environmental stroke. And without action, the million people outside New Orleans would have to relocate. The other million inside the bowl would live at the bottom of a sinking crater, surrounded by ever higher walls, trapped in a terminally ill city dependent on nonstop pumping to keep it alive.
To read all of Fischetti’s article, go here.