New Orleans is Doomed Without Restored Coastal Wetlands

If the Bush Administration continues to refuse to fund coastal wetland restoration, then New Orleans is doomed and should be abandoned, argues Mike Tidwell.
December 3, 2005, 9am PST | Michael Dudley
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"Katrina destroyed the Big Easyâ€"and future Katrinas will do the sameâ€"not because of engineering failures but because one million acres of coastal islands and marshland have vanished in Louisiana in the last century due to human interference. These land forms served as natural 'speed bumps,' reducing the lethal surge tide of past hurricanes and making New Orleans habitable in the first place.

"But while encouraging city residents to return home and declaring for the media audience that 'we will do whatever it takes' to save the city, the President earlier this month formally refused the one thing New Orleans simply cannot live without: A restored network of barrier islands and coastal wetlands.

"Tens of billions of dollars have been authorized to treat the symptomsâ€"broken levees, insufficient emergency resources, destroyed roads and bridgesâ€"but next to nothing for the disease itself, that of disappeared land, which ushered the ocean into the city to begin with. No amount of levee building or stockpiling of bottled water will ever save New Orleans until the state's barrier shoreline is restored."

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Published on Friday, December 2, 2005 in Orion Magazine
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