Friday, November 11, 2005

Why rebuild New Orleans?

Lousiana Representative Bobby Jindahl sounded like the salesman this state needs to get the rebuilding process moving. The key factor, he said, is assuring businesses and residents that they won't be gambling their fortunes by rebuilding here. That requires a strong commitment RIGHT NOW that a category 5 storm protection system will be built.

We're now over two months out from hurricane Katrina. As many as 90,000 businesses may fail by January, and hundreds of thousands of residents remain without homes and without work. Louisiana recently reported 300,000 unemployment claims. These are DESPERATE people. Imagine no home and no job. Imagine the worry that would create. Imagine how it would eat away at your dignity. These people need jobs and homes now, but nothing can really happen as long as everyone's wondering whether a cat 5 storm protection will be built.

Louisiana offshore drilling leases generate $5 billion dollars a year for the federal government. Senator Mary Landrieu was fighting hard to get the federal government to return a portion of that revenue to rehabilitate Louisiana's wetlands and coastline which provide a barrier from storms. In large part, the degradation of Louisiana's coast was caused by the oil industry building shipping channels that criss-cross in every direction through the wetlands of south Louisiana. It is only right that Louisiana be compensated so that it can rehabilitate those vital wetlands.

While some states are allowed to keep some share of that revenue, Louisiana gets nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Texas gets to keep 100 percent of offshore revenue. Other states get to keep 50 percent of the revenue on inland leases.

Jindahl's argument is that Louisiana does a lot for the country. Louisiana supplies 18 percent of the country's oil needs, most of the natural gas, and a significant portion of the nation's seafood. We saw, after hurricane Katrina, that gasoline prices rose to $3 a gallon, and in some places, up to $5 a gallon. If the country doesn't rise to the occasion to help Louisiana, it will end up paying for it down road. Louisiana doesn't need to be a charity case. It could help itself if it could get it's fair share of offshore revenue.

The Army Corps of Engineers had plans for thirty years to build a category 5 levee system around New Orleans. The estimated cost to build levee system to protect the city of New Orleans now is about $3.5 billion. That's a bargain compared to the $62 billion dedicated by congress to rebuild New Orleans so far, and the $200 billion promised by President Bush (although we haven't heard much from him since).

As I've said before, we need a rapid, massive effort to build a category 5 storm protection system to protect south Louisiana. I'm talking about a 1930's Depression era type WPA effort. And as I've said before, we can't wait 15 or 20 years for this to happen. I propose a ribbon cutting on a cat 5 storm protection system for the 2012 Louisiana bicentennial.


At 11/11/2005 10:42:00 AM, Blogger oyster said...

I love your bicentennial goal for Cat 5 floodwall protection.

I seriously doubt that Bush ever promised $200 billion, though. Do you have a link for that?

At 11/11/2005 04:52:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

You may be right. I can't find any reference to the figure $200 billion actually ever crossing Bush's half-grinning, half-pursed little grin.

There are articles, however, stating that Rove suggested the number to Bush (as in this Sunday Times article on Bush's brain gone missing in the aftermath of the hurricane), and in a Perrspectives post stating that Bush repeated the figure to the press.

At 11/12/2005 06:52:00 AM, Blogger Pawpaw said...

The bicentennial goal is a worthy one. I now support fully the Cat 5 system for Louisiana, as I discuss in this post

This will take a tremendous effort from both the state and the Fed, putting other projects on the back burner for a long time.

Can we in North Louisiana get a commitment once the system is in place, South Louisiana will then actively support our projects?

At 11/13/2005 08:35:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

pawpaw - I certainly hope that north Louisiana will not be forgotten, and I'm sure they'll make a lot of noise if they are. They, however, have to realize how critical it is for all of Louisiana, and the nation, to secure the greater New Orleans region.


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