Two months before Hurricane Katrina, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) gave a chilling preview of its rampage. "This isn't a simulation of World War III, or 'The Day After Tomorrow,' or Atlantis -- but one day, it may be Atlantis," Vitter warned at a hearing. Then he displayed a computer model of a Category 4 hurricane smashing New Orleans and flooding the city under 18 feet of water.
"It's not a question of if," Vitter said. "It's a question of when."
But do not trust the words of Louisiana politicians who are pointing the finger of blame:
"Instead of spending millions now, we are going to spend billions later," he said.
But as Vitter was forecasting destruction, he was also holding up legislation that would have approved levee upgrades and launched the coastal restoration plan. And the holdup involved an industry-backed provision that Vitter had inserted to help Louisiana's loggers deforest cypress swamps, which would reduce the natural hurricane defenses the restoration was supposed to rebuild.
In order to reduce hurricane damage to human dwellings part of what southern Louisiana needs is to allow areas to revert to nature. Allow flooding of fields and swamps and silt deposits. Allow much more trees and brush to grow without harvesting and clearing for short term commercial gain.
Louisiana's Hurricane Katrina disaster was set up by the choices and decisions of the populations in that area. They built where they shouldn't have built. They demanded levees to allow them to live in places where they shouldn't have lived in the first place. Commercial interests and Congressional representatives (that would be you Senator Mary Landrieu) connived to shift the large Army Corps of Engineers budget away from flood prevention and toward pork projects.
Louisiana's $1.9 billion per year Army Corps of Engineers budget is the largest in the nation. They had the amount of money they needed just from fleecing taxpayers in the rest of the country. They could have paid for their own flood protection using local and state taxes.
The scope of the losses from Hurricane Katrina was made possible by the response to Hurricane Betsy in 1965. The levee system built in response to the 1965 flooding allowed construction of large subdivisions of homes below sea level in areas that previously had been swamps.
The Corps aimed to protect New Orleans from the Gulf with levees much shorter than the river levees, plus two huge floodgates designed to keep storm surges out of the lake. But the economic rationale for the plan would be derived by reclaiming pristine wetlands at the city's outskirts, extending the levees beyond New Orleans to "hasten urbanization and industrialization of valuable marsh and swampland." A subsequent report would find that only 21 percent of the land protected by the Corps project was already developed; the rest was soggy, vacant and well below sea level, just waiting for subdivisions. Katrina would put those lands back underwater.
At one hearing in the late '70s, a freshman Louisiana congressman named Robert Livingston Jr. blistered a Corps colonel for protecting swamps instead of people. "Perhaps I am being a bit too complex," he said. "It would seem to me that if hurricane protection to the people and properties is the paramount importance, the portion you would want to complete first would be those levees surrounding inhabited areas rather than those around uninhabited areas.
"Would that not be a priority, sir?"
So government spending created the levees that led to the housing construction that led to the huge economic losses from Hurricane Katrina. How about letting those areas return to swampland and let them flood whenever the river rises or a hurricane hits?
Many projects didn't get built because they required the locals to pay 30% of the costs and the locals did not want to pay to protect themselves in the low level swamps they had turned into subdivisions. Well, why should the rest of the country pay for their choices?
Read the whole disgusting saga. It'll inoculate you against the rhetoric coming from Louisiana politicians. They made the mess.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 October 15 02:59 PM Politics Money|