Saturday, March 11, 2006

Let the river go

Bob Marshall, a Times-Picayune environmental reporter, was calling for radical coastal restoration in a Friday opinion, "The river wild":

Five years ago, after 25 years of chronicling the loss of our coastal wetlands, I stopped believing a cure was on the way. I became a realist. ...

So when readers and media colleagues continued to hammer me with the question "When will people wake up to what's happening?" my standard reply became this: "When a hurricane puts five feet of water on Canal Street."

Sadly, Katrina proved me wrong. We still live in a state of denial.

I say that because six months after Katrina wrecked our city and killed more than 1,100 of our neighbors, the nation and state still don't get it. Our leaders talk incessantly about levees (bigger, stronger, longer, costlier), and occasionally about wetlands. The implication is that if we build higher mud walls, then add the collection of coastal restoration projects the state has been pushing for 20 years, we can survive here.

That might have been true 20 years ago, but it isn't today. The loss of coastal wetlands is too severe.

What many coastal scientists know, but are afraid to say publicly, is that we are almost out of options. The Gulf has moved so much closer to our back doors that there now remains only one real hope for a long-term future on the delta of the Mississippi River: Let the river go.

The federal government must claim eminent domain on everything south of U.S. 90, then begin managing it as an ecosystem with one priority: Rebuilding land faster than it's being lost to the Gulf.

This can only be done by opening large sections of the levees. River-borne sediments could then begin reconstructing the 1,900 square miles of wetlands that provided us some safety from the Gulf and its storms.

Read on ...

6 Comments:

At 3/12/2006 07:22:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

I agree that we should help Mother Nature build wetlands in south Louisiana. It's good for the ecology and it's good for humans.

But there's no way you can tell me with a straight face that you can stop a 24-foot storm surge by planting grass. See my post on this topic:
http://timsnamelessblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/quite-distance.html

Bob Marshall might be a friend of nature, but he's not doing us any favors by perpetuating the myth that wetlands provide hurricane protecton.

Peace,
Tim

 
At 3/12/2006 08:34:00 PM, Anonymous ashley said...

What Tim said.

It's everything. Everything from gates to levees to floodwalls to wetlands. Not one thing alone will work over the long term, and if we don't have, at the very least, the wetlands we have now, it matters not how high the levees are.

 
At 3/12/2006 09:22:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Yeah, no grass means no soil means no land means the gulf of mexico at our doorstep.

 
At 3/13/2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Michael said...

...and my mom lives (just) south of Hwy 90--near New Iberia, mind you--but I'd hate to see her lose her house (Rita was a scare, but she did ok. Shoot, she didn't even lose power).

 
At 3/14/2006 01:56:00 AM, Anonymous Polimom said...

While I agree to some extent that it's possible to over-emphasize the wetlands, I think the larger point is being overlooked: the river is key to the entire situation.

I'd hate to see anyone (else) lose their home, but whether it's the wetlands, or (as I wrote this morning) the course of the river itself, we're all looking at an indominatable force. We need to find a way to work with this, rather than against it.

The will of man, via the ACofE, is in direct opposition to a difficult reality.

 
At 3/14/2006 06:17:00 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Theyve got to let the grasslands grow back, it's so very obvious, I dont know why we think we have control over things like the weather or nature; I suppose it's part of mans folly to think he can have some hand in the whole process.

 

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