Other cities watch as New Orleans fortifies itself

Flood-control projects will protect the city from the kind of damage Hurricane Katrina caused

Aug.August 08, 2015 01:45 PM

A New Orleans barber shop destroyed by Hurricane Katrina

Many residents of coastal areas are closely watching how New Orleans is reducing the risk of the deadly flooding that Hurricane Katrina caused ten years ago.

Congress appropriated $14 billion for construction of 350 miles of larger and sturdier levees, huge gates that can close to prevent flooding, and a wall that can plug the canal in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans if the canal’s flood are breached.

Other work under way includes the installation of pump stations to prevent dangerously high storm-water levels in New Orleans’ three primary drainage canals.

In addition to the federal infrastructure work in New Orleans, the state of Louisiana has a 50-year, $50 billion plan to fortify other parts of the state vulnerable to storm damage. The state plan encompasses levee construction, wetlands restoration and barrier-island reinforcement to reduce the impact of storms.

People have come from cities worldwide to see the protective project unfolding in New Orleans. A spokesman for the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers, Ricky Boyett, said he and his co-workers led in excess of 400 tours for congressional delegations and official from more than 20 countries in 2010. After that, “we quit counting,” Boyett said.

In addition to climate change, sinking land is a big issue for Louisiana, where 1,900 square miles of  coastal wetlands have been submerged in the last 80 years. The lost land mass is approximately the size of Delaware. The equivalent of a football field disappears hourly.

Coastal land has become submerged largely because of levees along the Mississippi have pinched off the flow of land-replenishing sediment.

In addition, oil and gas companies have installed pipelines and cut channels for navigation purposes, allowing saltwater intrusion to kill fragile wetlands.

Going forward with restoration of wetlands and barrier islands is necessary even though the recovered land will erode, seas will rise, and storms will continue to do damage, said U.S. Representative Garret Graves, a Republican from Louisiana.

“You don’t not build a road because you’re going to have to maintain it,” Graves said. [New York Times]Mike Seemuth

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