Three-part Series On Rebuilding From Katrina, A Year Later

The Christian Science Monitor runs a feature-length, three-part series that examines the people, money, and environment on the Gulf Coast one year after Katrina.

From Part 1:

..."Before the storm, New Orleans had some of the cheapest housing in the country and some of the best free healthcare," says Arthur Sterbcow, president of Latter & Blum Realtors, a large brokerage firm in Louisiana. "There were tremendous incentives for the poor and elderly to stay."

The irony is that by hitting the poorest stretch of coastline in the continental US, hurricane Katrina may push out enough poor and enough African-Americans to cause its remaining population to become, on average, richer and less black, especially in New Orleans. With the economy in dire need of service-sector and low-skilled workers to support the massive reconstruction efforts, New Orleans has already seen its minuscule Hispanic population double, says Karen Paterson, Louisiana's state demographer."

From Part 2:

So, where is the money going?

"There is a vast amount stuck between Washington and the folks on the ground who need it," says Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) of Louisiana, who represents St. Bernard Parish, where almost every home was sullied by floodwaters. "Congress has authorized the money, but the agencies are not spending it."

..."Ninety percent of the reconstruction money has gone to companies outside the three states affected," says Rita King, author of the group's report on Katrina spending.

...Officials say one of the keys to recovery is the federal payout to a different population: homeowners who were not in a flood zone but who were inundated anyway - a situation common in New Orleans. To help those hurt by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mississippi and Louisiana enacted a program to give cash to those who suffered. In Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's program, called "The Road Home," allocates up to $150,000 to these homeowners.

From Part 3:

Rather than relying principally on levees that hug urban areas, the Corps is considering a triple-layer defense.

Extensively restored barrier islands would be the first line of defense, absorbing the first shock from the surge of high water that hurricanes bring. Revitalized wetlands would form the second line of defense. Armored levees and other forms of barriers stretching from Texas to Mississippi would form a final defense, a Maginot line often a few miles inland. These final barriers would be designed to allow boat traffic to move back and forth. By some accounts, those levees could reach 30 to 60 feet high.

Such an engineering project would take years and tens of billions of dollars to complete. In the near term, improving the region's natural hurricane defenses would fall to those who are trying to restore its wetlands and barrier islands. They also hope to stem the sinking - or subsidence - that is allowing the Gulf of Mexico to creep farther northward.

Full Story: Katrina: Sea change on the Gulf Coast - Part 1 - People

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