Thursday, June 01, 2006

To Rebuild or Not Rebuild?

Today, June 1st, marks the offical beginning of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. As this milestone reaches us, and talk goes about whether the U.S. Gulf Coast is ready for another year of above-average hurricane activity, it brings to mind for me an interesting question.

So let's say you have this city. This city is built on swampland that has no bedrock, and therefore sinks every year. This city sits near the coast, however the barrier islands and coastal marshes that have traditionally protected the city from the ocean are slowly sinking beneath sea level due to being cut off from their supply of sediment from the Mississippi River due to the extensive lock-and-dam system built on that river to control flooding and keep it navigable. Meanwhile, sea level is rising due to global warming, which also has a certain side effect called making the hurricanes that do form larger, more intense, and more frequent.

Now, lets say that this city was recently hit by a major hurricane that did catastrophic damage due to the failure of the levys that hold back the ocean. Now, we have a report that says that the levys failed because the ground they were built on had subsided rapidly ( click here for story). So, does this City seem like a good place to sink billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars in a rebuilding effort? Or should the city be moved from its present location to prevent future disasters?

I vote for the latter option. Rebuild New Orleans, but on the other side of Lake Ponchartrain (sp?) from its present location. That way, the new New Orleans could be built on good ground that has bedrock and will be protected from future hurricanes. The other option is to let New Orleans dwindle down to the nothingness. A historical fact is that Houston and Galveston, TX had roughly equal populations before the 1900 hurricane decimated Galveston. After that, Houston, the city further inland, gained population at Galveston's expense. Already, this pattern is occuring with a large population and business shift to the further-inland state capital of Baton Rouge. Allowing New Orleans to die would be tragic given the city's historical significance and unique character.

Let's save the city by moving it to higher ground, and spending our taxpayer dollars on rebuilding once, not over and over and over again.