Thursday, September 01, 2005

Move New Orleans

Assuming the U.S. doesn't withdraw from Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina's devastation and a budding insurgency, what is to be done next?

One suggestion that deserves more attention than it will probably get is moving the city to higher ground:
When the cost of restoring New Orleans to urban life is finally calculated, add to it the cost of maintaining it in its present location, then add the inevitable costs that will incur over the next 50 years as there are more hurricanes and Mississsippi River flooding, it makes sense to not bother. Other cities have moved when their old location proved untenable, why not New Orleans?
A BBC article has a useful map and cross section of New Orleans demonstrating that not only are large parts of the city below sea level, but the Mississippi River has been engineered to flow by the city 3 meters (10 feet) higher than sea level. This problem of geography is well known and was often pointed out during last year's hurricane season:
"[New Orleans] basically sits like a bowl, and most of the city is under sea level... so if we get a storm like Ivan to hit us directly" there could be 12 to 18 feet of water in the city, [New Orleans Mayor Ray] Nagin said.
Two posts at (here and here) explain the situation well.

If we could move the millenia-old temples at Abu Simbel, why not New Orleans?

Update, Sept. 2: Eric Zorn writes in the Chicago Tribune:

Do we invest again in the madness of what many refer to as a city in a bowl? Or do we spend all that money--federal tax money, insurance industry money and donations--on building New-New Orleans more safely inland?

Expect sentimental appeals to the history and traditions of the devastated city from those who want to rebuild it on the spot. But remember that along with great music and great food, New Orleans' history is one of defiance of the inevitable.

And its traditions, in the words of Blanche DuBois, one of its most famous fictional residents, include a dependence on the kindness of strangers.

This time, this stranger is opening his heart and his wallet. In return, he asks only that there not be a next time.

Update, Sept. 9: Poll: Most Say Abandon Flooded New Orleans

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than half the people in this country say the flooded areas of New Orleans lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the four-fifths of New Orleans that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina moved to a safer location.


Lady Jane said...

If they decide to rebuild New Orleans at its present location, and it is again devastated by such a hurricane and flood, then it wouldn't be fair to ask the rest of us to help in recovery.

Obviously the current location is a dangerous place to live. People need to be smarter.

JJH said...

Jane, it's not that simple. It's a crappy place to live but an absolutely vital port location, and unfortunately the people working at the ports need to live somewhere close. And the French Quarter has historical value.

But please, everybody, be sure to get a larger penis and protect your ID. ;)

Nick said...

Is there a way to report blogger comment spam? I think I looked before and couldn't find anything. It is fairly rare here.

The importance of the port is questionable, as I will post as an update momentarily.

Nick said...

Actually, the update is under the more appropriate topic, "Should the U.S. Withdraw from Louisiana?"

JJH said...

Hey, this blog is awesome. Want know know what else is awesome? Flipping off Hummers!

Nick, I responded on the other post, but your "update" really didn't address the point.

Nick said...

It wasn't meant to be a direct answer to the "absolutely vital port location" claim. I didn't have the time to research that in depth at work. Given the destruction, however, why not adjust to the demands of nature and rebuild any "absolutely vital port" in a better location?

Lady Jane said...

I think they can still keep the port, but they need to move the city further inland. They can also keep the French Quarter and other historical areas (if they are still there) as tourist areas, but people don't need to live there.

I don't want this sort of thing to happen again.

April said...

I don't think anyone cares about the French Quarter for historic value. Have you ever heard of someone heading to the Big Easy for a history lesson??? They go there to get piss drunk and flash people without getting in trouble.

JJH said...

Well, you could have a point there, assuming there's higher ground reasonably close to the port. Or maybe the whole thing could be moved to Houston. I'm just saying I haven't seen anybody with authority on the subject suggest such a thing.

April, you basically described Las Vegas as well. I don't think the Federal Government can really get in the business of deciding which cities they're going to rebuild after a natural disaster. With two volcanoes in the vicinity and the "big" earthquake looming, Seattle's waiting for the big one too. When and if this happens, I'll be really pissed off if people propose moving it all to Spokane.

April said...

Jason, I don't see any historic value to Las Vegas either.

Nick said...

Wait, the federal government can't decide where to spend federal money? Do you work for Ray Nagin?

(I haven't heard anyone with "authority" oppose moving New Orleans.)

JJH said...

Nick, that's a cheap shot. I'm not saying the federal government can't decide where to spend federal money. I'm saying that since it's in the business of disaster relief, it would be a tad bit arbitrary for them to say "we're moving The Big Easy" when, by the same logic, plenty of other cities are built in crappy locations.

Now it's an interesting question as to whether or not the Feds should even be this involved. Check out John Tierney's NYT article. He's probably right: the feds should just build a big ass levy for them and say "guess what? Buy private flood insurance or move somewhere else."

JJH said...

April, I see no value at all, historic or otherwise, to Las Vegas. Or New Orleans for that matter, but obviously people who go to either place do.

JJH said...

"I haven't heard anyone with 'authority' oppose moving New Orleans."

Now you have.

Nick said...

Jason, those "other cities" haven't been destroyed (yet). That's the difference - just like it would have been pointless to discuss rebuilding the World Trade Center before 9-11.

Looking at the maps, I'm wondering if the horrible geographic location is part of the reason for New Orleans's economic problems. Houston, for example, as room to grow and is building beltways. New Orleans is surrounded by swamp and muck. What's needed is the kind of creative thinking that made Houston into a port, not saying it's the only possible place because there's a man-made bridge in the way.

We're not talking about moving it to Montana, or even very far, as the Friedman article argues against. The importance of having a port on the Mississippi is not currently in dispute, the question is whether it should remain undersea.