Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Cost to Rebuild New Orleans

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Nation -- 'Engineering nightmare': Water keeps rising in New Orleans

Eventually they will stop the water pouring into New Orleans (if for no other reason than the level will rise to match Lake Pontchartrain). Then they will drop enough cement in the gaps to repair the levees.

But then what?

Governor Blanco says, "we will rebuild." But who will pay? I expect to see any number of insurance companies fold, so will the US taxpayer pay? And if they do rebuild, New Orleans will still be 80% below sea level. So the whole thing will be waiting to happen again.

Maybe the best thing we could do is pay everyone the money would pay them to rebuild, but insist that they only get the money if the rebuild somewhere else. (Somewhere above sea level at least.) Do we really want to see this happen again in 2 or 5 or 50 years? When the Mississippi River overflowed its banks some years ago, several communities that had been destroyed were basically relocated to higher ground.

In American Prospect Online - Thinking Big About Hurricanes: It's time to get serious about saving New Orleans, an article written in May of this year, Chris Mooney discusses what we knew in advance about a hurricane hitting the Crescent City.
[T]he levees of New Orleans, which only protect against a hybrid Category 2 or Category 3 storm (with winds up to about 110 miles per hour and a storm surge up to 12 feet). Soon the geographical "bowl" of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops
The Big One - Part 1: Joe Allbaugh commissioned a study, shortly after he was confirmed as FEMA Director in February of 2001. It talks about a lot things: what the buildings can withstand, the likelihood of mosquito born disease, and the problem of pumping the water out.
"If one goes to construction equipment rental firms, you can rent pumps with a capacity of 6,000 to 8,000 gallons a minute, but that's just not enough capacity," [Jay Combe, a coastal hydraulic engineer] said. "After Betsy the corps employed six dredges with a combined capacity of 243,000 gallons per minute. It would take 44 hours to drain a half-inch of water from the New Orleans metro area that way."
This isn't going to be over anytime soon.

Update: Ilyka Damen disagrees.
This idea that New Orleans is impractical and not cost effective and therefore should not be rebuilt: Neither's New York. Should we get rid of it?
No I don't think we should get rid of it. But if it got removed from the face of the earth - as it appears New Orleans has done - would I want to pay to rebuild it, rent control and all? No. And if we do rebuild New Orleans, I hope we make damn sure that we don't have to rebuild it again in 10 years time.

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