August 28, 2015

"Unless the rapidly disappearing wetlands are made healthy again, restoring the natural defense, New Orleans will soon lay naked against the sea...."

"So, how does one reengineer the entire Mississippi River delta—one of the largest in the world—on which New Orleans lies?"
Three international engineering and design teams have reached a startling answer: leave the mouth of the Mississippi River to die. Let the badly failing wetlands there completely wither away, becoming open water, so that the upper parts of the delta closer to the city can be saved...,

Scientists worldwide agree that the delta’s wetlands disintegrated because we humans built long levees—high, continuous ridges of earth covered by grass or rocks—along the entire length of the lower Mississippi River... [that] prevented regular floods from harming farms, industries and towns along the river’s course... [but] would have supplied the brackish marshes with massive quantities of silt and freshwater, which are necessary for their survival....

22 comments:

Achilles said...

Wait, these guys are saying that there was a government intervention that caused a problem, and the answer isn't more government?

Blasphemy.

Scott M said...

"Naked, beguiling, seductive like a woman..."

Mrs Whatsit said...

Harrumph. That should be, "New Orleans will soon LIE naked against the sea." A distinction soon to disappear from the language, to be mourned, apparently, only by me.

Rocketeer said...

Once again, we are forced to say: blame the French.

Peter said...

"Wait, these guys are saying that there was a government intervention that caused a problem"

Or, perhaps more accurately, that because there are few if any truly free lunches, just about everything is a tradeoff: if you want more of this, you get less of that.

The levees do provide some protection for the farms, industries and towns, etc. (although that protection is not absolute). BUT, that comes at a cost.

It would be good if, when people speak of government programs and their benefits, this was always accompanied by discussion of their costs.

Jack Wayne said...

This idea is stupid. If they would just leave the Mississippi alone near Batin Rouge, one day it will jump the bank, head south and create a new delta on the Gulf. No more flooding problem for NOLA.

mikee said...

Look at a map of the Mississippi delta, and where New Orleans sits. The river needs to go somewhere else. So can the city.

Crimso said...

"It would be good if, when people speak of government programs and their benefits, this was always accompanied by discussion of their costs."

In a properly functioning civilization, this would never need to be pointed out.

Hagar said...

When I was young and working for the Corps of Engineers (biggest mistake I ever made in my life), I read a pair of books on flood control prepared by the Corps for "developing nations."
The introduction, signed by the then commanding general, said in so many words: "Do what we tell you, and not what we do," it being the general's straightforward opinion that flood protection works in the United States were governed strictly by politics with no concern for any scientific knowledge or sound engineering principles.

He also said that the Mississippi will eventually go where it wants to go and most of the work done to control it had been at best useless when not directly harmful for the intended purpose.

I assume he wrote this very shortly before reaching retirement age.


Hagar said...

And yes, it would have been a very good thing if the Mississippi had been allowed to go back into the Atchafalaya after the 1927 flood.

Lyle said...

So all those chemical plants and the Port of New Orleans, not to mention of the people living in the towns and city along the river, should just let the river wash everything away?

Good luck with that politically.

Hagar said...

When it rains again like it did in 1927 - rain and rain and rain from New York to the Rocky Mountains - and it will, just that is likely to happen.

And if another hurricane heads for New Orleans, The Corps will cross their fingers and pray that there is not a weak spot they missed somewhere.
And that just for another Cat. 3.

Hagar said...

And on large, complicated projects, there is always at least one weak spot no one knew about.

virgil xenophon said...

Presently N.O. has a VERY long term and VERY expensive plan in operation to siphon off the waters (and the alluvial soils they contain) of the Miss R. to re-build the wetlands eroded by the oil-drilling channels and resultant wetlands erosion. In theory it should work but will the will and money remain for the length of time needed? Remember FORTY PER-CENT (40%) of the ENTIRE nation's GDP travels thru the port of New Orleans--to include 30% of the nations commercial seafood and a like amount of domestic oil & gas production. NO OTHER PORT matches those figures. America will go a loooooonng way to maintain the viability of N.O. and its port.

Birkel said...

Lyle,
Politics loses to reality, always, over a long enough timeframe.

Birkel said...

GDP, Virgil? Unlikely.

Captain Curt said...

If you want good perspective on this, read John McPhee's "Control of Nature", which explains the dilemma very well. If we want the Mississippi to be navigable from the ocean, we need to control it well. New Orleans is needed for transfer between ocean and river ships. If we just let the river go where it wants, that can't happen.

Lyle said...

Birkel,

The reality is you can't just let the river destroy citizens and citizen property. What do you not understand about this reality? That is why the levees are there in the first place.

Birkel said...

I see you are changing the nature of your position. Do you expect me to play along?

If you believe property and citizens will not be killed by a large, moving body of water -- over a long enough timeframe -- I simply cannot help you understand. The Mississippi will change course and follow the path of least resistance. This event can be delayed but not prevented.

Joe said...

"Remember FORTY PER-CENT (40%) of the ENTIRE nation's GDP travels thru the port of New Orleans-"

Not remotely true. The Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana combined handle about 13% of the total tonnage of US ports. A lot, but nowhere near 40% in tonnage, let alone of the GDP of the country.

Fact is, both are replaceable.

Hagar said...

It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature!

dwick said...

The first half-dozen or so chapters of the book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America tell the story of all the background and decisions that went into the building of the levees way back when. Excellent book beyond that also...

http://www.amazon.com/Rising-Tide-Mississippi-Changed-America/dp/0684840022