Cypress, Not Building Below Sea Level New Orleans

It has been two years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Parts of the city have been rebuilt. Large parts are not. One author thinks not rebuilding the below sea level parts of New Orleans is a Bush policy. I wish that was true.

I suggest you read the linked article. Suffice to say, I disagree with most of it.

I wrote a post on this subject year and a half ago. Not much has changed, but since the Katrina talk will soon be all over the place, we should revisit the subject.

We should not rebuild the whole city or even most of it. It is below sea level. How stupid do we have to be to build below sea level and expect happy results?

Anybody who believes in global warming should reject any suggestions to build anything at or below sea level. It is a waste of money and a cruel hoax. If we encourage people to move to low lying coastal areas, we are condemning them to the inevitable suffering that will follow when sea levels rise and when storms come.

Even absent global warming, it is stupid to build below sea level. Why do we even discuss these sorts of things?

I blame it on Bush. Why should I be different? But Bush's blame is indirect. Many liberals and environmentalists who claim to believe global warming is a problem are in the front lines of demanding rebuilding sub-sea level New Orleans because they want to stick it to Bush. They should know better and/or be more honest.

No place on earth is w/o risk, but some places are way beyond the normal level. If your house is leveled by a tornado, I feel some sympathy. If you are flooded by the same river every second year, you are just asking for it. Maybe move up the hill next time. In the case of New Orleans, taxpayers are asked to pay billions to rebuild something that cannot last out the century if even the tame global warming scenarios come to pass. Beyond that, we will be paying billions to exacerbate ecological destruction. It is just not worth the expense and it is cruel to those who would move in or move back. It makes much more sense to move to higher ground.

Let the place return to a productive wetland. We may be able to spend millions to do that right. It will be better for everybody. Cypress swamps are better than housing projects on low and wet sites. It is silly to build giant walls around wetlands to permit building. We got plenty of higher ground not far away.

Be serious. We all feel sorry for those who lost homes. But besides the emotional argument, can anybody think of even one good reason to spend billions to allow fools to rebuild below sea level so that the next storm, or normal high seas in the global warming scenario, can wipe them out in nasty and spectacular ways.

We have not been as helpful as we could be with relocation. We have already done way to much to help rebuild below sea level.

Posted by Jack at August 26, 2007 10:18 PM
Comment #230760

Jack said: “We should not rebuild the whole city or even most of it. It is below sea level. How stupid do we have to be to build below sea level and expect happy results?”

Especially with the potential of global warming and melting ice caps. There has to be a stronger word than ‘stupid’.

Good article, and I find your arguments cogent and valid. If as in Holland, there was an overriding long term economic repayment to be gained by rebuilding the low areas of New Orleans, it would be a different matter. And being a different matter, would demand that we invest in protecting that lowland against all contingencies, which means a major, major investment dwarfing reinforcing the current levee system and elevating it a few feet.

But such is not the case. What was lost in N.O. cannot be regained, and some of what was lost in N.O. should not be recovered, like the serious poverty and crime areas.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 26, 2007 11:50 PM
Comment #230783


What you say makes sense. I as all who have paid attention have heard many different thoughts on this matter. I agree that the lowest level areas should not be rebuilt, at least as residential areas. I also think that the great historical heritage of that area demands some serious consideration when it comes to determining rebuilding value. It is my understanding that if the levees had been initially built properly and maintained properly that this disaster would likely have been greatly diminished. Many put the blame on the Corp of Engineers, many want to blame the federal government and the state of Louisiana. Common sense says that all these entities are to blame for procrastinating for so long in spite of the obvious. We all know it will be rebuilt. The real question is will it be done properly so as to avoid a repeat of a disaster of this scale. Or will heads once again be turned while shoddy and inadequate levee repair is implemented.

Your post also makes me wonder why should we continue to fund rebuilding on any of the hurricane prone coastal areas of our nation. Should we provide funding to rebuild areas of our largest cities built on fault lines when disaster strikes those areas? Should we move all those who live in tornado alley to safer areas? I would think that hilltop may get very crowded if we move all our citizens out of known high risk areas.

Last week we had some very serious flooding in the area I live in. A neighbor asked if I thought global warming had any influence on what happened here. I told her that since this was the second hundred year storm in our area over the last 11 years common sense indicates that, that possibility can not be dismissed. Changing weather patterns are most definitely reshaping the way people live. Many home owners in this area now keep on hand a spare sump pump and an alternate heating method. I also have to believe generator sales are way up over the last few years.

For the global warming skeptics out there I have to inquire as to what harm can be done in reducing emissions and living a more environmentally friendly life style. It seems kind of absurd to live in a state of stubborn denial simply to defy those who advocate for change so that we might improve our world.

Posted by: RickIL at August 27, 2007 10:28 AM
Comment #230784

Where is N.O. going to have it’s high crime and poverty area if not in the swamp? They are going to have one, you know. I doubt they are going to put it in the high pay and “low” crime area. When the dealer in the high crime area needs more contraband, he calls his dealer in the low crime area to order more.

I agree that it makes no since to rebuild in the below sea level areas, especially in a country where high graff and high incompetence make it impossible to build levees properly.

What presedence are we setting if we make this policy? We spend millions every year replacing eroded beach sand all along the east coast. If sea level rises, the erosion problem will be even worse and people who have nice beach bungalows will demand even more money to repair their beaches.

I agree that we need policies like this to prepare for the possibility of rising sea levels but, rising sea level will not be the only problems. When we make policy, let’s at least try to do it in a way that doesn’t pitt the poor against everyone else. If the below sea level areas of N.O. were upper middle class neighborhoods we probably would not be talking about turning it into wetlands.

Posted by: jlw at August 27, 2007 10:31 AM
Comment #230787


I’m curious… why, exactly, do you feel there is less economic worth in rebuilding the below sea level areas of New Orleans than in maintaining Holland below sea level?

As for the idea that the poverty and crime areas “should not be recovered”… where, then, do you propose the people that lived there should be forcibly relocated?

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 27, 2007 10:41 AM
Comment #230800

Jarendhel, good question. The answer is the whole of Holland was threatened and thus the massive costs to defend their nation from the sea was justified economically for the decades of taxes the project cost its people.

New Orleans is one location in a vast nation of cities and towns, and the nation is not threatened by the loss of these lowlands, nor willing to make the kind of investment Holland made to replace and protect their entire nation’s economic viability.

Because we are neither in a financial nor political position to embrace the massive costs it would take to restore and defend N.O. against global sea rise, merely patching and elevating the levees in N.O. neither offers a permanent solution nor economically insures investments in restoration from being washed away. Thus, it does not make economic sense to patch N.O. low areas, nor are we economically positioned (9 trillion debt and deficits as far as the eye can see), to engage in the kind of permanent solution Holland committed to.

Those who lived in the poorest low lying areas have largely already been relocated, and most will not return if those areas were restored. NPR has done a number of interviews and programs on this topic.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 27, 2007 11:57 AM
Comment #230806

Isn’t there a whole port and refineries in the “below sea level” area? What will be the cost of moving those, or closing them?

Posted by: womanmarine at August 27, 2007 12:31 PM
Comment #230808


The first obvious response I can think is that the rebuilding and “fortification” of sub-oceanic New Orleans would be far, far cheaper than Holland. It is a single city, while Holland is about the size of the state of Rhode Island, I believe. Moreover, all of New Orleans was not below sea level, so it would not even be an entire city that would need fortification. And the fact that we are such a vast nation would allow us to spread the cost of this investment out over our citizens far more effectively than Holland was able to. I imagine the question will be, of course, why the nation as a whole should shoulder this expense? Because rising sea levels are not just a problem for New Orleans. How many of our great cities are built along the coastal regions? New Orleans is a perfect test-bed for working NOW to develop the means and technology to hold back the sea or find some way to live with its encroachment. Just in cities like Manhattan alone, what would be the effect of something like the the collapse of the grounded interior reservoir of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, estimated to raise sea level by 16-20 feet? And that’s without adding in the effects of other ice sheets like Greenlands also melting at the same time. This is a national problem, and the task of building New Orleans gives us a practical test bed to address this problem now. Do we have the economic resources to put this practical research off, and wait for it to become a more widespread problem?

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 27, 2007 12:59 PM
Comment #230809

Well, I guess it’s time to go against the grain.

Abandoning New Orleans is probably the DUMBEST idead I’ve heard in a while. How many billions of dollars is it going to take? How many times has it been flooded in the last 40 or 50 years? Katrina, of course…and then there was Camille. It hasn’t been hit head-on since 1968 and you want to abandon it???

Florida gets hit every couple of years doing billions and billions of dollars in damage. Why don’t we abandon Florida? Hell, half of the state is below sea level. Using your logic, we should have given up on Florida sometime in the 1950’s.

What about the idiots that built San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and San Diego on or near the San Andreas fault? They get earthquakes (albeit small ones) every WEEK. Ask any Californian about “the big one”…the killer earthquake that will make beachfront property in Arizona very attractive.

By your logic, we should have abandoned California after the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake. Would it cost too much to get the residents of the coastal cities of California to relocate? Hey! Only a couple of trillion dollars. Drop in the bucket. We can let our children’s children’s children to pay for it.

What about the Madrid fault that runs down the Mississippi River? Can we afford to lose St. Louis…The Twin Cities…Memphis? According to your logic, they need to move out! Shut ‘em down! Relocate to Utah or Wyoming! Too risky and cost ineffective to live where they are.

Bottom line is this: you can run…but you can’t hide. Everywhere you live you have a certain risk of being wiped out. Whether it’s a tornado in Oklahoma City or an earthquake in Eureka, California or a hurricane in Key West or a volcano in eastern Washington, you can run…but you can’t hide.

Posted by: Jim T at August 27, 2007 1:12 PM
Comment #230817

This was a managable problem. With a sound infrastructure New Orleans would be safer that Florida, easily. In fact, money was in the budget to fix the levees, but it was diverted to help pay for Iraq. Why would anyone want to turn their backs on a great economic and cultural institution like New Orleans when its problems can be fixed and are manageable.

Anway, I also agree with the other posters who said: 1. It is not true that all of New Orleans is under sea level, and 2. New Orleans is not more accident prone than other parts of the country.

Rebuilding New Orleans could have been a triumph. How often do you get to rebuild a city anew? But - Bush screwed it up, as per usual, and Republicans in general claimed that it was a waste of money, etc.

What was really behind most Republican claims, I think, is the idea that the people of New Orleans are to blame for the disaster, because they were so dumb to live below sea level. It’s a crock, and it would never be proposed if it happened to rich white folks.

Posted by: Max at August 27, 2007 4:04 PM
Comment #230820

New Orleans is located at the bottom of the Missisippi. Many US exports and imports pass through including the bulk of US agricultural products.Its a major port. There IS going to be a city there.Some consideration should be taken to restoreing the surrounding flood plains and of course stenghtening the levies.

Posted by: BillS at August 27, 2007 4:56 PM
Comment #230822

Jarendhel, in this month, federal authorities have put the rebuild cost at 14.7 billion dollars, of which 7.1 billion has already been allocated.

With 9 trillion in national debt likely to reach 11 plus trillion about the time boomers start making enormous deficit demands on the federal government, do you believe America can continue to refuse to say no to spending?

About 6 billion dollars can be saved if Louisiana rebuilds on on high ground, and the levees are fully repaired. New Orleans will continue to exist, and gradually, population may substantially move there to full populate the non-flood prone areas.

The return on investment to try to restore N.O. to its previous size and culture with improvements to secure it against global warming is negligible and could even play a small part in bankrupting America. A heretofore not heard of statistic emerged this month. Economic projectors now place an 8% probability on a short term national recession.

Recessions cause huge deficit spending to try to shorten its life. America cannot meet the boomer retirement crisis and survive if it continues whip out the charge card unable to ever say no to a request to spend.

If Louisiana and the people of N.O. want to restore N.O. to its former state, let them, on their own dollars, over the time it will take on their own dollars. But, it is foolish in the extreme to risk the nation’s financial health and future in trying to turn back the hands of time. Katrina happened. The low areas are largely unpopulated and people have been resettled to other areas. Further debt will not save lives, but, it certainly will cost them if America does not get a grip on its credit card and quit handing out to everyone who asks for it.

Very, very tough times are coming for Americans and their children. That reality DEMANDS we make tough choices now on the side of prudence and responsibility to minimize the privations and suffering coming which we can do something about. Katrina happened. We can’t erase that with another 6 plus billion deficit.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 27, 2007 5:03 PM
Comment #230829

Jim T,
I totally agree with you!!!

Well, I guess it’s time to go against the grain.

Over 20 years ago, I was given the unusual opportunity to live in any area of the US I wished.

One of the major things I considered were the possibilities of a natural disaster. After checking into the mudslides,earthquakes,fire, and volcano potential I ruled out the West Coast.

I’m not too fond of tornadoes, dust storms, or heat, so I ruled out the mid-west.

Texas gets too many hurricanes so it had to go.

The northeast was easy to rule out because not only does it have BAD Northeasters, but also way too much snow,ice, and freezing temperatures almost as much as I hate heat, so that ruled out that area.

Alaska quickly followed - I still hate freezing temperatures.

Hurricanes, and heat, and frankly retirees ruled out Florida, as well as much of the south. (Don’t care much for bigots either.)

I briefly considered Hawaii, but somewhere I read they have really big spiders, and I hate spiders more than anything.

I also considered the moon - since I would weigh less there - but breathing is important to me. too!

I ended up staying where I was at the time, in North Carolina, and now somewhat unwillingly live in SC. At least NC has a compromise - the Beach in the winter and the Mountains in the summer. Ans while it gets hurricanes, they aren’t very frequent. (come to think of it, they’re not all that frquent in New Orleans, either)

Jack - don’t you just hate snow, ice, and how the politicians are crowding up Virgina?

As for New Orleans, it’s been around longer than most of the states, let alone cities of the West Coast. I say: REBUILD- and maybe learn HOW to do it RIGHT from Holland!!!

Posted by: Linda H. at August 27, 2007 5:47 PM
Comment #230835

Linda H., and to hell with fiscal responsibility? You know, no one considers it immoral or unethical to amputate a gangrenous arm or leg to save the person. America now must ask what can it afford to say ‘NO’ to, in order to save all of America’s quality of life for her children’s future.

The time to spend to secure New Orleans was decades ago, when it became known to the Army Corps of Engineers that the levees would be insufficient against a hurricane 5 storm surge. Katrina happened. Let’s move to save our nation’s future, and avoid bankrupting it trying to erase the past of a city.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 27, 2007 6:26 PM
Comment #230842


I actually agree with you to a large degree. OK I’ll pause a moment while the vertigo clears ……………. are you OK again?

When I moved to my current home after an entire lifetime in the panhandle of Nebraska I purchased a home that was just over a century old here in Southeast Kansas in a “flood-plain”! Duh! Well, I understand the risk but part of my property is inside the city limits and another 3.5 acres is just outside the city limits which makes it very desirable to an old country boy.

The price more than offsets the cost of flood insurance and I love it here. A small stream runs through it (not as good as a river but it’ll do). But it would be irresponsible to build section eight housing on land in a flood plain. For that matter, given my ongoing disability, it would be irresponsible for me to rebuild on this land if their should be another flood.

The last devastating flood here was in the 50’s and the only remaining structures are these old historical limestone jobs that are unsuitable for most of todays modern families. Building close to a fresh water source was smart 105 years ago! Not so smart now!

New Orleans should be the “poster-child” of what’s wrong in America though. Why were so many poor people amassed in one area? Is there even any excuse for stark poverty in America, even if the only personal reason is laziness? (which it’s not)

As a nation we need to address poverty and not just with more money. We need to be motivated to truly end poverty altogether and outsourcing the job to private enterprise guarantees failure because success would put that private entity out of business.

Here’s a good example of tax dollars gone wild:

“U.S. Labor Department Ignored Rampant Worker Abuses in Post-Katrina New Orleans”
Oh gosh, if you can’t find enough POOR Americans to do the job USE illegal immigrants! What are they gonna’ do? They can’t sue because they have no legal status!!!!!

When private enterprise and public charity fall short of addressing a problem then the government MUST act on it’s own! Another great example is how slow we’ve been to supply our troops with MRAPS!

There is no excuse for taking so long to get these life saving vehicles built and delivered!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes the government needs to bypass the private sector altogether. The MRAP problem is one of those times, New Orleans is one of those times, and providing health coverage for ALL Americans is one of those times.

That’s not socialism, that’s responding to societies needs!

Posted by: KansasDem at August 27, 2007 7:07 PM
Comment #230851


I think we should leave it to choice, but do not subsidize it. All places carry some risk. You might be willing to accept the risk in return for whatever benefit you think you get. BUT we should not subsidize this. If you want to live on a flooding river, it is your business, but do not expect a bailout. Do not expect the taxpayers to subsidize your insurance either. Insurance firms are good at assessing risk. If they are willing to turn down a customer, you gotta know the risk must be too high.

As I wrote, it is just a waste to spend lots of taxpayer money to build big walls in New Orleans. These walls will eventually separate two areas of swampland.

BTW - as you know from my posts, I consider global warming a serious problem, but I do not think we can blame Katrina on global warming. Hurricanes seem to go in cycles. This cycle is not worse than some earlier ones and last year was very uneventful.

The reason we have so much more trouble is that so many people have moved so close to the shores.


Just because we choose not to do everything does not mean we need to do nothing. In some places coastal improvements make sense. They may be worth the cost or risk. New Orleans is a particularly egregious case of what we should not do. There are lots of valid improvements.

If you read what I write, you know I advocate not insuring those expensive houses on barrier islands and I would let the mansions of the millionaires slide into the Pacific if they are built on unstable slopes. But I do believe that it is an easier choice to abandon properties that are less valuable. It just makes sense that you would be more likely to protect an million dollar investment than a ten dollar bet. This should be no source of surprise or embarrassment.


The Dutch do not have the kind of great spaces we have. Beyond that, the investments they are protecting are worth more. It is the business of the Dutch. I do not pay taxes there.

Can you give me ONE good reason to spend billions to defend a below sea level not very nice area, besides wanting to give a very expensive gift to the former residents and/or opportunistic investors?


No. The port and the refineries are above sea level. Most of that infrastructure was not significantly damaged by the hurricane. BTW – the French quarter is also above sea level. In the early 1900s, the city expanded into the wetlands. They were already low lands, but the building and draining caused them to subside even more. It was a mistake from the economic, ecological and engineering point of view. Since the investment was already in place, it did not make much sense to take it all down. But it makes absolutely no sense to repeat what we know is a wrong choice. It was hubris that led us to believe we could tame and capture nature to that extent.

Jim T

It makes sense to rebuild if it is worth it to rebuild. The port of New Orleans is rebuilt. The French quarters is mostly up and running. The former swamp areas are still not done. There is no compelling reason to do it. Do you really think that it would ever pay off? In the places you mention, people rebuilt because they thought it was worth it. In 1906, San Francisco required almost no federal aid to rebuild. It was worth it. I do not propose that we PREVENT rebuilding. If people want to do it, they can feel free. I do not see reason to subsidize their folly.

You are right that everyplace carries risk. But some places are a lot riskier. You could be hit by a stray meteor while sitting in your chair at home, but the chances are small. The below sea level area of New Orleans is not just risky; it is already lost, especially if you believe global warming is an issue.


It has nothing to do with being rich or race from my point of view. Please see what I wrote above and what I have written before about building in places where we damage the environment at the expense of the taxpayer.

I also have written above and on many occasions that I am aware that most of New Orleans is above sea level. Those parts are already rebuilt for the most part. The other parts are not worth the money AND doing it is very bad for the environment of the entire region. It was a mistake to build there. He who makes a mistake and then does not take the opportunity to correct it, makes another mistake.


The port is functioning. Much of that infrastructure was not significantly harmed by the storm. There are sufficient workers to run the port. That is not a problem. We have already rebuilt or are well advanced in rebuilding the parts that should be rebuilt. The rest would be better off as park, wetland or low density short term.

Linda H

Do you believe that probabilities make a difference? Do you smoke, drive drunk, sky dive, swim with sharks, keep your doors unlocked etc? Why not? There is a chance that even if you do none of these things, you still will have trouble and you might do all these things and remain healthy. The odds are against it, however.


Thanks for the agreement.

Re the poor – being habitually poor is not a random event. One of my friends is from near Pascagoula, Mississippi. His family heritage was destroyed by the storm. He and his brothers rebuilt their houses. He told me that there was a severe shortage of even unskilled workers. They had to import workers from all over the U.S. and they were highly paid. He offered my unskilled 19 year old son a job paying $30 an hour to come from Virginia to move debris in a wheelbarrel. The local poor? They evidently couldn’t be bothered to get off their rears to make the big bucks. Those poor who did are no longer poor.

Re MRAPS - if you believe the government could build them faster, let them try. The bureaucrats would not even be able to draw up a feasibility in time.

Posted by: Jack at August 27, 2007 8:22 PM
Comment #230868


I honestly have trouble believing anyone was paid $30.00 per hour for unskilled labor unless there was no available housing, no public utilities, toilet facilities, etc. I’ve just never seen the “lazy” side of humanity some of you describe on here.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve lived most of my life in small towns. Maybe small town people are different. No doubt it’s harder to get away with things when everyone knows everyone else.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 28, 2007 12:33 AM
Comment #230877

BillS makes a good point. N’awlins is a major port, and so there will always be a city there, and a good sized one at that. To some extent, it will have to be rebuilt, so the real question has to be how to go about it. Will the areas below sea level have to be abandoned? Most likely, which is sad. It is the closest thing we Americans have to an ancient city, and to lose any of that history will be a wrench. But better now than in 20 years, when there’s a good chance sea levels could be quite a bit higher. I say rebuild it right, rebuild it smart.


Posted by: leatherankh at August 28, 2007 9:27 AM
Comment #230878

This article is despicable. I’m tired of hearing this crap from people who know nothing about New Orleans. Yes you may know the geographic region, the insurance assessments and the “return on investments” but you don’t know US, the city, the people, the lifestyle, the culture, the art, the music, the FOOD. You talk about us like we’re some third world country in Africa that isn’t worth the trouble. I didn’t ask to be born in New Orleans, but I was, and I’m an American citizen. And I believe that this country can afford to build a FRICKIN levee. (I know I can move, and in fact I will eventually, but that doesn’t mean I condone giving up on an entire city and region). I don’t want to hear about the debt we’re in or any of that, that’s just too bad. I’m a citizen, I pay taxes, I have insurance that paid for the damages to my house from Katrina BUT I expect my country to at least protect me - from foreign invaders and from natural disasters. Sorry if the french were wrong in creating a port city in a place prone to hurricanes, take it up with them if you’d like - since all we like to do in America is point the blame to someone else. It’s a disgrace. You are all a disgrace. It’s like you have no heart or care for your own fellow citizens.

Posted by: Disappointed at August 28, 2007 9:33 AM
Comment #230882

Disappointed: Spoken like a true Government of the People American.

Jack: A hypothetical. Two low pressure points collide over the Potomic water shed and dump 12 to 20 inches of rain over the area in a four hour period. Washington D.C. becomes Lake Washington. The Capitol is on an island and Abe is setting in the puddle. Should the taxpayers spend their hard earned dollars to rebuild the seat of government in a swamp? If so, should we just rebuild the parts used by the government and dozer the city parts where all the poor lazy people live?

With the exception of a few who with no help from anyone raise themselves out of poverty and go on to become good Republicans, the poor are that way because they are lazy. It is a shame that they don’t all have some kind of genetic control that makes those who can’t raise themselves off the bottom just drop dead.

I think your friends $30 an hour story is an obvious fabrication. Those poor people down there are so lazy they won’t work for $30 per hour. That is a real good example of Republican propoganda. You should send it in to Rush.

Your proposal to turn that portion of the city that was flooded when the levees gave way be turned into wetlands makes it obvious that you know little about the city or the wetlands of the delta. If you are truely interested in the wetlands, check out how erosion over the last few decades have made them ineffective at helping to protect the area from Hurricanes and what the main cause of the erosion is.

Posted by: jlw at August 28, 2007 11:15 AM
Comment #230883

I agree with Disappointed. As far as the money is concerned, take it all out of military funding. All of it. It’s time for this country to reassess its priorities and how it’s going to secure itself against future threats. I think we all agree that in the future there will be more environmental catastrophes, not less, and that that requires a paradigmatic change in how we approach defending ourselves.

As far as race not being an issue, I find that hard to believe. From claims that the people of New Orleans should have got out sooner, to being unprepared for the disaster, to being at blame for living in the wrong area, these are things that I simply haven’t heard before when disaster hits white folks. No one floated the idea after any of the numerous hurricans to hit Florida that we simply should not fund disaster relief or rebuilding. It’s unthinkable.

What other areas of the country do you propose the government stop providing catastrophe relief Jack? Or, is it just New Orleans?

Posted by: Max at August 28, 2007 11:20 AM
Comment #230884

Btw, below is an article about some new New Orleans building projects. These are more of what I expected. After Chicago’s fire, the city rebuilt and created a new standard of architecture for the world to live up to. I would have thought that Bush would have declared a mission of that kind. Instead, he has utterly failed New Orleans and this country.

Posted by: Max at August 28, 2007 11:40 AM
Comment #230897

Max asked: “What other areas of the country do you propose the government stop providing catastrophe relief Jack?”

The government should not rebuild metropolitan areas destroyed by a natural occurrence which has a probability of 75% or higher of reoccurring in the next 75 to 100 years, AND the cost to protect against a re-occurrence is prohibitive. If that doesn’t make sense to you, Las Vegas would love you as a gambling resident.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 1:04 PM
Comment #230905


I agree if the money is not there, it’s not there, and we will always have to balance the desire to rebuild against the economic realities of doing so. However, it just doesn’t seem this is the case to me in New Orleans. I would prefer to cut elsewhere.

It’s something of an irony. The money was in the budget to fix the levees, but the reallocated to fight this war. It’s a hard pill to swallow that we spent every dime we had on this war, and are going to ignore New Orleans. It may even be reality that we have no more money - it’s all used up.

If someone could present a budget which shows where our spending is going, and the nation agreed it was all used up on more important things, then I might agree with you. As things stand, however, it’s clear to me that Bush simply has other things he considers more important to spend money on.

Posted by: Max at August 28, 2007 2:34 PM
Comment #230906

David R. Can the state of Florida meet that standard? How about the coastline of the Carolinas? The cities in tornado alley might get those odds but some of them won’t beat them. If San Francisco is destroyed tomorrow by an earthquake, that will be ok because they just beat the 100 year threshold. How about Corpus Christi. It is rather hard to associate wisdom and logic with humans don’t you think. If humans were wise and logical we would not have things like poverty, hunger, war, internal combustion engines, capitalism, etc.

Posted by: jlw at August 28, 2007 3:06 PM
Comment #230909

My Opinion? When a civilization starts abandoning large cities, it’s got problems. When’s the last time you heard of a Nation abandoning a city the size of New Orleans?

Do I believe we should make plans for the eventual inundation of New Orleans? Yes. We should start restricting the construction within the bathtub, hardening the levees for Up to Category 5 hurricanes, eliminate the most problematic of the canals, and consult with the Dutch about how to keep a below-sea level city dry.

Whatever views we hold on how logic it is to keep a city like that going, we have to take a broader view and realize that New Orleans is there for functional reasons, and that losing it without some means of carrying on it’s infrastructural purpose will not do us any good.

Like it or not, New Orleans remains the gateway to the Atlantic for goods moved down the Mississippi. Until you develop an substitute, talk of letting the waters take New Orleans is premature and unwise. It is the easiest thing to do, but as this administration has demonstrated time and again, easy and wise are not the same things.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 28, 2007 3:54 PM
Comment #230915


Isn’t this America?
Theoretically, isn’t this supposed to be the “greatest” country on the planet?

Despite it’s faults, New Orleans is still a great city. It is still also part of the United States, and as such, deserves to be rebuilt. Not as it once was.
Our American Legacy is that we do what we need to do, simply because it is the right thing to do.

Has America fallen so far that we cannot do the right thing anymore?

I guess we just havr to admit that this “great” experiment is over, and resign ourselves to being a second class country.

Posted by: Rocky at August 28, 2007 5:11 PM
Comment #230919

Rocky, your logic that takes you from not rebuilding the low lying areas of N.O. to being a failed democratic republic is completely and utterly absent.

Can you try to connect the dots between your premises and conclusion, for the rest of us trained in logic, so we can better try to understand how you got from point A to point Z, skipping all letters in between?

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 7:19 PM
Comment #230920

Stephen D. said: “My Opinion? When a civilization starts abandoning large cities, it’s got problems. When’s the last time you heard of a Nation abandoning a city the size of New Orleans?”

First, please quote where anyone here is recommending abandoning the entire city of New Orleans. I read folks recommending that we do not rebuild those areas which are likely to be reclaimed by the Gulf of Mexico anyway with glacial melting. The areas untouched by flooding resulting from the levee breaches are intact and no one I see is advocating abandoning those areas.

N.O. has 75% of its original population. I am all for improving those areas of New Orleans above sea level sufficiently to withstand another 5 foot rise in the Gulf. That makes sense and honors the city of N.O. without insulting the taxpayer’s by asking them to throw good money after bad.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 7:24 PM
Comment #230921

Max, the simple reality is, we (the US Gov’t) owe foreign and domestic lenders 9 TRILLION dollars. Up, 3.45 Trillion dollars over the last 6.5 years.

Millions upon millions of aging American citizens are facing a shortfall in their retirement years to live a lower middle class lifestyle by more than double that 9 Trillion national debt amount.

So, I ask you, how many millions of American citizens should go homeless in 10 to 20 years, or die suffering from neglect and lack of health care, in order to rebuild low lying areas of New Orleans which the Gulf of Mexico wants to claim for its own?

No matter how you cut it, every dollar the US government spends today, is a dollar lost to suffering grandparents in our lifetimes. This reality is one Republicans and many Democrats don’t want hear or face. But, that reality is not going away.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 7:34 PM
Comment #230923

David R. Remer-
To be honest, if the ice sheet melting gets going, then New Orleans will not be the only city having to deal with being below sea level. Three of our four largest cities are close to sea level, and many more of medium size border the ocean.

Also, if things keep on going, no part of New Orleans will be safe. When we talk about rising oceans and more frequent sever storms battering the city, There won’t be a single part of the city safe from harm, ultimately.

Additionally, most of the area above sea level were the richer parts of New Orleans, not the most populous. Those portions are the portions we’re talking about when we talk about abandoning the parts that were flooded.

You can’t run a city minus its population.

You can, though upgrade and raise the levees, so they can take worse hits. you can see about dealing with the subsidence, so you don’t have disappearing wetlands ahead of the city. You can see about putting in systems to help get in the way of future storms, and to preserve the city as long as its feasible.

Meanwhile, you can plan on Moving critical facilities back from New Orleans, in addition to the population.

The trouble, and what the Republicans are likely balking at, is the kind of central planning, direct government intervention, and big public works projects that seem to them to be tantamount to communism. Unfortunately for them, this is what confronting many of our future challenges will require.

That, or the decay of our civilization as climate change, economical change, and technological change spring ahead of their willingness to let go of the past.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 28, 2007 8:18 PM
Comment #230925


Let me say first that I have utter respect for you and your writings here at watchblog.

That said, I would add that it’s obvious your debating style didn’t come from “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

I believe I was pretty succinct.

America has always been about it’s people, and it’s people are nothing without the neighborhoods we come from, and live in, including the poorest among us.

Do we just tell the people of New Orleans that we are abandoning them? That they’re on their own, and they’re just not worth it?

If we can’t help New Orleans rebuild, what the hell are we doing in Korea, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Germany or……..?

Should we just say screw it, and build a museum to the futility of rebuilding a city after a disaster strikes?

I don’t know what America you want to live in, but my America takes care of it’s own, regardless of race, creed, or geographic location, even if we all must pass the hat to do so.
We must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.

Posted by: Rocky at August 28, 2007 8:36 PM
Comment #230926



Anyway, nobody is suggesting we abandon New Orleans. Part of it are above sea level and much of the infrastructure is intact. It is just that it will be smaller. Cities are not necessary forever. Many formerly important cities are now simply tourist attractions. Others are gone entirely. It does not spell the end of a civilization.

The building on the low areas of New Orleans was a significant mistake. It is ecologically disastrous and economically foolish. There is good reason not to repeat the mistake.


Thank you. Why are the wetlands of the delta eroding so much? It is all the levies and canals the prevent the natural regeneration. It is also responsible for the dead zone just outside the delta.

You may think this is a “Republican” thing. I am mostly looking at it from an ecological perspective. Can anyone who really is concerned about global warming advocate building below TODAY’S sea level? Can anyone who really cares about the environment advocate spending billions to aid in the destruction of one of our most extensive wetlands?

Re the wages - that is what my friend offered my son. He could not get enough locals to come and work. That is also why so many immigrants moved in. They are rebuilding.

Disappointed and Max

It is not mostly about money. It is mostly about environmentalism. Let me make the distinction. The pre 20th century parts of New Orleans are mostly above sea level. That part of the city could and does remain. The below sea level parts are an environmental disaster. Even if rebuilding was free, I would be against it.

Let me ask a simple question. Do either of you believe that global warming is a serious issue?


The parts of New Orleans that should be rebuild mostly ARE rebuilt. The low lands should have not been built on in the first place. It is ecologically unsound. We made a mistake. We should not now repeat it just to show how we can defy nature and good sense.


We are mostly singing the same song. I think because of our mutual concern for the environment, even if we disagree about politics.

I just do not understand the arguments on the other side. Usually even when I disagree, I can see some merit or logic in the other side. This time I think they are running only on sympathy, a valid emotion but misplaced in this case, since rebuilding will result in much more suffering later on.

Posted by: Jack at August 28, 2007 8:45 PM
Comment #230934


First, any rebuilding could restore the wetlands as a part of the project, which would be an environmental triumph and buffer the city from the force of future storms.

Second, rebuilding could make use of better levees, including compartmentalized levees that would prevent the failure of any one levee from causing this kind of damage again.

Third, New Orleans is where much of America’s grain is exported, and keeps the Mississippi from silting, which is needed for our transportation. These economic reasons do justify rebuilding.

Fourth, you cannot save the older parts of New Orleans without rebuilding because they exist in a crescent ring of high ground that would be isolated and econonically wither without rebuilding the area that was destroyed.

Fifth, global warming is coming. You’ve written before that the logical thing to do is to simply accept this fact and embrace it. I will not. England has already determined that every dollar spent addressing the problems of global warming now will save four in the future. Let’s start now. This was the real security issue all along.

Posted by: Max at August 28, 2007 9:46 PM
Comment #230935

Stephen D., and you can’t make a logical argument if you ignore the facts. 75% of New Orleans population is still there. Plenty enough for a city.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 9:49 PM
Comment #230936

Rocky said: “Do we just tell the people of New Orleans that we are abandoning them?”

No. We do what we have done. Relocate them. And what we haven’t done: pay them for their losses resulting from government breach of contract on the Levees.

What we would have spent trying to defend N.O. from global warming consequences, we spend on minimizing global warming which, as Stephen D. right points out, will affect far more cities and towns than N.O.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 9:53 PM
Comment #230937

Jack said: “This time I think they are running only on sympathy, a valid emotion but misplaced in this case, since rebuilding will result in much more suffering later on.”

I agree. We need to think in terms of ‘ounce of prevention preempting the need for a pound of cure’. Emotions and prejudices are interfering. Some Democrats want to use the logic of not wasting dollars on restoring N.O. to its former posture of awaiting another disaster, as a club against Republicans. They need to put it aside and think of what is best for the nation and all Americans.

Good environmentalism grants nature what it needs. The Gulf needs those low lying areas of N.O. and in the end, will have them, and sooner than later if we divert funds, effort, and attention away from global warming mitigation to restore N.O. to its former precarious predicament.

This is a classic forest and trees problem. N.O. is a tree, all of our coastal areas are the forest. We need to pour our efforts into saving the forest, and if letting the ocean have a few trees to save that forest, logic and reason dictate that is the appropriate course.

We are no longer a nation with infinite resources. Our 9 trillion dollar national debt and 3.35 trillion addition to in just 6.5 years SHOUTS the truth of it. Americans must start acting like they are on a belt tightening budget before circumstances force them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2007 10:08 PM
Comment #230938


Re global warming, there is enough greenhouse gas in the air NOW to warm us up. It has a lag time and residual effect. We can mitigate it so that it does not get really extreme, but the deed is done for the intitial changes. It will happen, even if we stop all CO2 production today, not a likely scenario.

Re the wetlands - the parts of the city ARE wetlands. It was a mistake ever to try to make them anything else. If we restore the wetlands, fewer people will be able to live there. Good.

Re saving the older parts of the city - sure you can. Most of the lower parts of the city were not the most productive anyway. A city of New Orleans that is 75% as big as it was is still a decent sized city with all the parts that people really like and most of the parts where they work and live. It actually becomes a more pleasant city, with a broad greenbelt.

Re the grain export, you can keep the river viable as a barge route w/o saving the low areas of New Orleans. Nature seems to want to take the water down the Atchafalaya anyway. This would bipass old New Orleans and will probably happen in the long run, but that is another subject.

Posted by: Jack at August 28, 2007 11:11 PM
Comment #230941

Ok, the federal government which is mainly responsible for what happened to New Orleans and it’s people is not going to rebuild the city. The precedent has been set. Who’s next!

Posted by: jlw at August 28, 2007 11:47 PM
Comment #230952

That would be a good precedent. The Federal government should never to mainly responsible for rebuilding a city.

The governments are various levels made mistakes over the course of a century in creating a system that held nature at bay only with great effort. Now that we have the opportunity to avoid repeating those mistakes, we should take them.

Unfortunately, I fear too much will be rebuilt in places that should be left to nature or at best very low density.

Posted by: Jack at August 29, 2007 7:32 AM
Comment #230961

Jack, your last comment reminds me of enormous losses to occur in Nevada this century if water scarcity resulting from lower snow amounts to their North occurs, sending 10’s of thousands per water scarce year packing for other climes in the U.S.

The irony is they are building there as if Nevada was going to become a rain forest this century.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 29, 2007 9:14 AM
Comment #230975

The question is, will the Government, whether Federal, State, or Local even allow certain parts of New Orleans to be built upon? And if so, what will be required in terms of mandated flood insurance so that the government is not required to bail out these people the next time a Category four or five blows through? It is my guess that most of those who are demanding their homes and small businesses to be rebuilt in these areas will not even be able to afford the exhorbitant flood insurance rates that will be mandatory to rebuilding there. My suggestion is to let the wealthy build summer homes, who can afford the higher rates of flood insurance. This will promote tourism to New Orleans, as the wealthy rent out these homes to tourists and vacationers when they are not using them, (and losing a summer home is not nearly as bad as losing ones’ entire life savings in one storm). New Orleans should be rebuilt with investment in mind, promoting those things which will bring it to fiscal independence and financial stability. This is one reason why Florida is so successful and is able to rebuild itself, for the most part, after their numerous storms. If these areas can be rebuilt for these purposes, then it could be worthwhile.


Posted by: JD at August 29, 2007 12:50 PM
Comment #230976

The irony of global warming is that we may have to put solar reflectors and microwave broadcasters into orbit to try and fight off the cold. If that is the case, Nevada can easily and cheaply import water from Minnisota, Wisconsin and Ohio. They would need it to accomidate the refugees from those states. Since the states, the cities and the people will be on their own, federal tax dollars will be freed up to help the corporations cope with adjusting to the new environment and find new ways to generate profits. It easily justified. What were those people in Ohio thinking. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that you don’t try to build a civilation in an area prone to glaciation.

You can wrap this pig in an environmental cover if you wish. It is still the same pig that is trying to eat social programs as well.

Posted by: jlw at August 29, 2007 1:12 PM
Comment #231001


You are referring the the global cooling idea. That is based on what happened near the end of the last ice age. It is only speculation.

I consider it a little dishonest. It just allows proponents to blame any foul weather on “global warming”.

If you really believe in this kind of thing, there really is no hope and we should not bother to build anything for the future.

Posted by: Jack at August 29, 2007 6:37 PM
Comment #231021

The truth is that New Orleans is not going to be rebuilt in the sense that all inhabited areas are going to be reinhabited. More affluent areas, like Lakeview, are being rebuilt by the owners or speculators, with some help from the govt. But there is very little rebuilding going on in the poorer areas like the famous 9th ward.
What needs to happen is for someone with the courage to stand up to tell everyone that they are on their own. Furthermore, they have to make the decision NOT to build in certain areas, regardless of whether the homeowners want to or not. Those areas can be refitted for industrial areas, including generous flood plains and flood mitigation areas.
The next incarnation of New Orleans is going to be significantly smaller than in the recent past. The historic and central business district are on higher ground, so they’ll come back. But the areas to the east will probably never come back. Eventually, after the pain is over, everyone will relent and the remains will be bulldozed. Much of what is left will be used as landfill.
We’ll probably see a maximum of 2/3 of the city coming back. That’s fine. It’s still a viable city at that size, and its existence will benefit the country because of the huge amount of shipping that goes through its ports and waterways.
New Orleans’ fate is already sealed. All the discussions don’t matter. It’s just that many people don’t realize it yet.

Posted by: Cole at August 29, 2007 9:58 PM
Comment #231058

Jack: There are two issues. One is the newly developing theory about rapid climate change. The other is current global warming leading to a rapid climate change which triggers an ice age. The first one will soon become accepted theory. The second one won’t become accepted theory unless it actually happens.

In the past, the theory has been that climate change occures on a time scale ranging from many centuries to milliena. This theory will slowly be replaced, as the evidence mounts, by a new one that goes something like this, the last few million years have been punctuated by many rapid climate change events that occure on a scale ranging from a few centuries to decades or less.

The event that you referred to is known as the Younger Dryas-to-Holocene stepwise change that occured 11,500 years ago. It was the first time evidence was collected that suggested that climate could change in a much shorter time frame than was previously thought.

Scientists have since discovered other events. One sudden cold spell that occured during an interglacial period 122,000 years ago is getting attention because the climate then is very similar to what it is today.

There have been many less intensive but significant rapid changes occuring on a 1500 hundred year cycle during our present interglacial period. The climate has shifted from warm, wet to cold, dry as a result of these changes. This has caused the demise of several civilizations in the past few thousand years.

The second theory suggests that rapid melting of the Artic ice cap will put a lot of fresh water into the North Atlantic which would stop the flow of the Gulf Stream current. The salinity of the current increases as it travels north. This causes the current to sink, plunging to the ocean floor, where it travels south around Antarctica, out into the Pacific Ocean. It then returns back thorugh the Antarctic and into the Southern Atlantic where it rises again and repeats the cycle. If enough fresh water mixes with the current, it could prevent it from sinking and stop the current. The current keeps the Eastern U.S. and Europe warm and glacier free. This has occured before and some scientist suggest that it could possibly trigger another ice age.

The sensationalist have grabbed the ball and run with it, saying that this is definitely going to happen and that when it does it will happen in three days. I am not one of them, but you are right. If current global warming were to trigger another ice age, even if the effects took a century to fully develop, it would have a serious impact on the World civilization.

Posted by: jlw at August 30, 2007 2:45 AM
Comment #231082


“No. We do what we have done. Relocate them.”

Simple question;

Some folks have spent their entire lives in the 9th ward, it is “home” to them, what if they don’t wish to be relocated?

Is this a proper use of “eminent domain”?

Posted by: Rocky at August 30, 2007 2:04 PM
Comment #231209

The irony of global warming is that we may have to put solar reflectors and microwave broadcasters into orbit to try and fight off the cold.
You can wrap this pig in an environmental cover if you wish. It is still the same pig that is trying to eat social programs as well.
Posted by: jlw at August 29, 2007 01:12 PM

So, giant solar reflectors are going to keep areas warm when the ice age hits.
If scientists are considering this, why don’t we just build solar deflectors here on the surface which will propel light and heat from the sun away from the earth much the same as our atmosphere, and the polar ice caps are supposed to do. If we build enough of them, with the ability to open them and close them to regulate the amount of heat absorption, we should literally be able to control world climates even as the scientists say we are responsible for destroying them. If heat absorption in the ocean and on land is the problem as the scientists claim, by deflecting the light and heat away from the earth we should be able to prevent global warming altogether, and also control our own weather. Maybe Al Gore would donate some of that $50 billion to a project such as that? But John Edwards would probably be reluctant to donate his mirror.


Posted by: JD at August 31, 2007 2:01 PM
Comment #243516

I see a lot of fingers pointed at the current occupant of the white house. when were the levees built? how ‘short’ were they recently determined to be? how far have the lowest portions of N.O. sunk since the levees were built? For which war are people saying the levee funds were diverted, Vietnam? Of the federal money sent to the local government entities responsible for the levees over the past 40+ years, how much was actually spent on levee upkeep vs diverted to other local infrastructure - or worse, blatantly embezzled by local politicians? Why keep electing people who have ripped you off before?

Debate is great. I simply suggest
1) focusing on the topic at hand: N.O. (as opposed to arguing which scientific model best explains the causes of weather past/present/future.)
2) Keep the facts straight. Regardless of your preferred political party, it is never fair to blame someone in office now for problems that have been brewing for decades before they ran for office. It is also not fair to blame the federal government for things not under their control (remember states’ rights?). Just as a Katrina example: FEMA cannot go in until asked by the Governor. Bush asked her to request FEMA, she procrastinated for days.

How did your representatives vote on any of the above topics? Congress diverts federal spending; why blame a president? Remember, our forefathers designed our government to be inefficient so that no one has too much power. Thus, no president has as much power over things as people seem to blame them for. Ironic isn’t it?

You gotta ask the right questions.

Posted by: RW at January 22, 2008 12:16 PM
Comment #245583

Of Course, Rebuild New Orleans. This was a man made disaster. New Orleans had much worse huricanes in the 1960’s with much less damage. The oil companies destroyed the wetlands and were not required to repair them prior to pulling out and leaving the area. In the 1970’s they closed most of their companies and moved employees out of the area. Remember, after WWII we rebuilt Europe and Japan. The Netherlands had a major disaster in 1953 and spent over $8 billion over 30 years to protect half of their country which is below sea level. Although it will cost a fortune, it is a bargain compared to another flood. And, New Orleans is a major major port for this country. New Orleans is an historic city with great culture and must be protected. The Dutch are experts in water management and offered the president help but he refused it. The government did not build the levees to protect the city from a category 4 hurricane , I think Katrina was not as severe as Betsy but the levees were much worse and the wetlands were allowed to recede. Why is it that our parents were willing to give up frivilous things to take care of our infrastructure and build schools and roads and the interstate highway system. People today focus on $400 handbags. What are our priorities in this country today. New Orleans must be rebuilt, there is no question. The culture there is unlike any other city in this country. Unfortunately, the politics must be changed locally, nationally and the Congress must be influenced by the citizens of this country on the importance of this matter.
Are we so indifferent that we don’t even care to lose a lovely city such as New Orleans?????
We must have leadership that looks at the overall picture and not the quick vote, quick fix. I believe if citizens of this country were really educated on this issue and understood what is involved here, that we would all be willing to sacrifice to protect a major U.S. city. Or, would you prefer that Dubai purchase New Orleans and then eventually that area would be at war with the U.S and separate from the nation. Remember the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. Americans are usually willing to take on the impossible, willing to do what is right and there is no question what is right in this situation. Do some research, read some books such as The Storm and David Brinkeley’s book on Hurricane Katrina and the LSU Hurricane Center’s Ivor Van Heerden’s books and research. Unless we are willing to listen and to learn before making judgements we have no future, we will be another fall of the Roman Empire and we are heading there quickly.
Don’t be quick to accept what you hear, do the research which is so easy now with computers.

We are willing to put billions in Iraq on a senseless war, killing many innocent people but we won’t take care of our own, what happened in the last 50 years??? Consumerism replaced citizenship.

REBUILD New Orleans !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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