IMHO, no. NOLA should be declared a national park but all existing oil and gas easements should remain.
Now, here is something a friend of mine wrote - I won't give his name because I haven't gotten his permission. I believe he will polish it up and
submit it to a major newspaper but, they probably won't print it, so...I'm sharing.
I have written a short essay about New Orleans and what is happening. It is a draft and comments are welcome. It was written hastily, and I hope it
makes sense. It is pasted below and in an attachment.
* 50 cent gas tax for relief, 50 cents for rebuild*
What is happening in New Orleans is no surprise. New Orleans has talked about the "big one" ever since Camille and Betsy in the late 1960s. The
storm surges, overtopped and breached levees, and complete submergence of large swaths of urbanized New Orleans have been predicted, modeled, and
prophesied for decades. It was taught in grammar schools, high schools, and universities. Local television stations and the Times Picayune have run
dozens of special reports. Just one year ago, millions fled via the elevated expressways out of the city in the wake of Ivan.
And the city has also had several dry runs with moving thousands of people to the Superdome and then storing them there while waiting out the storm.
The huge logistical nightmare was predicted, modeled, and prophesied, and to some degree, experienced before this day.
Hurricanes are normal, even a cat 4 over NOLA. Hurricanes hit the Gulf coast almost every year, somewhere – Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana.
IF not a Hurricane, a weaker tropical storm. These storms are part of the reason the South is so wet, so fertile - a land of milk and honey.
But many, especially the political leadership, will pander to the weak-minded and fall back on claims that this was an act of God. The governor of
Louisiana attempted to marry church and state in a prayer session while New Orleans drowned and burned. They use prayer as a front. Calling it an act
of god, or natural, deflects responsibility away from the last several decades of willful negligence. Already the embedded media cuts to film footage
of desperate victims praising Jesus when rescued, or lamenting about "god's will" while surveying their leveled homes.
But what is happening in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast is not an act of god or a result of nature. What is happening in New Orleans, more than
anything else, is the result of public policy. Let's start with the disaster of evacuation and the horrific images of tens of thousands of poor black
people left stranded in the city after the call for evacuation.
Post storm aerials show a yard of about 50 yellow school buses submerged in the flood. Couldn't these buses have been used to evacuate at least some
refugees? Public policy dictated no, not God, not nature. On Sunday, while panic set in but the skies were clear, the airlines not only cancelled
flights, but extra planes were not sent in during this state of emergency. That is public policy, not god. Passenger rail?
Forget it. Public policy says that this efficient and fast way to carry people for daily needs as well as evacuation is not necessary in America.
And where are the planes now? We have a huge airline fleet ferrying business class right now from meeting to meeting across the continent.
Apparently some upper class yuppies trapped in the American Can redevelopment in Mid City were flown out Thursday night? Did they use credit cards?
What about the Lower Ninth Ward?. What gives?
In the aftermath a variation of Mad Max and Hieronymous Bosche "Hell"
have set in. Cries from attics. Bloated bodies floating - some with bullets in the back of the head. Rape, hysteria, insanity. Rooting corpses, a foul
suffocating stench. For the smug white racists in Covington, or the white flighters from Metairie who now reside in Baton Rouge, New Orleans has
indeed become Haiti. You know what I am talking about.
The response from the National Guard, our civilian, disaster relief militia, is not even paltry. All lines are busy at the moment, call back later.
Logistics and relief services are tied up in Babylon, fighting for oil. That too, is public policy – not god. And that should have been predicted,
modeled, and prophesied since we started to bomb Afghanistan.
But by then the American public entered the hypnosis of the "war on tear" and forgot the purpose of the National Guard, forgot that the reason
thousands of people joined the national guard was for disasters just like this. Those national guard people stuck over there in the desert must be
feeling really #ty right now.
Like the bungling evacuation and apocalyptic aftermath, the true causes of this disaster were public policy. It is important to know these causes in
order to have a sensible rebuild. Without knowing the causes, the trajectory of decision making is off course.
Public policy response to accelerated *coastal erosion* is a cause. For decades pipeline canals, shipping channels, and oil platform access canals
were built willy-nilly across the coastal marsh. The oil industry was given carte blanche to decimate the coast. Salt water intruded.
Marshes died, open water moved closer towards the city. The buffer for the storm surge disintegrated. This was public policy. It could have been
different. And people knew it then, as now. But Americans wanted cheap gas.
Public policy towards the *Mississippi River* is a cause. The River's 25-foot levees kept the river bounded in a swift and fast channel. Mud was not
deposited in the wetlands to recharge them – as it had been for eons. Freshwater and silt was shot straight into the Gulf, instead of fanning over
the delta. Discussion of breaching levees got nowhere.
Capitalist interests got priority. Shipping, refining capacity, and real estate development blinded decision-makers. That was public policy. It was
decided by political leaders that the course of the Mississippi (which shifts "naturally") must be maintained for commerce. Breaching it both above
and below New Orleans to deposit silt, mud, and freshwater was considered communist.
The more subtle problem of widespread *subsidence* is also about public policy. Subsidence normally took centuries, it was a "naturally" slow
process. The river floods mentioned above were an essential part of slowing and mitigating subsidence - "naturally." The river deposited new mud and
silt on top of previous layers. Over the last few decades, subsidence happened rapidly and in short time-spans. Not only do the levees on the river
block deposition of new silt and mud, the weight of buildings and pavement accelerate sinking, and the removal of water, oil, gas from ground causes
even more sinking. In 60 years, the already low floodplain around New Orleans sunk by 2 feet.
The subsidence is especially problematic in the *backswamps*, those areas of greater New Orleans away from the river and its "natural"
levees. Historically, development in Louisiana, whether in New Orleans, along the Mississippi River, or along the bayous, was on the higher, drier
grounds immediately along the rivers. These natural levees were built by the rivers and bayous over centuries of flooding and deposition. After an
afternoon thunderstorm or huge hurricane, these natural levees would drain into the backswamps. In New Orleans these backswamps also stored the surges
that came from Lake Pontchartrain.
These backswamps are now paved over with low-density, automobile oriented sprawl. New Orleans East, the New Orleans Lakefront, and Metairie are
largely filled backswamps. They continue to act as storage areas for the surges and floods, but it is largely auto-centric sprawl that is now
submerged, not cypress swamps and marshlands. The levees built to protect this backswamp sprawl now hold the water in, allowing it to fester and
stagnate, full of the toxic residue of sprawl – motor oil, gasoline, lawn fertilizer, and so on. Sprawl has been a national public policy for at
least six decades. This is the face of sprawl in New Orleans today.
Enough has been said about *global warming* by the less cowardly sectors of the media, most notably the New York Times. We know that global warming is
happening, the debate is how much, how fast. We know sea level is rising faster than under "natural" circumstances. We know that the Atlantic is
warming, thus spawning more storms like Katrina. We know that rising sea levels mean that the already imperiled coastal wetlands, deprived by public
policies onshore, are in even more trouble. Global warming makes the coast of Louisiana even more vulnerable. But the leadership in both the US and
the State of Louisiana refuse to confront global warming. Kyoto was weak, but no one considered signing. Across the nation, motorists balk at high gas
prices, get "confused" by the conflicting date fed to them by oil interests, and go about their daily lives of massive carbon emissions. 25% of the
world's emissions, 4% of the population. But from the Bay Area to Charlotte the ethos is, "yeah, but I have to get to work, yeah but I have to carry
my big dogs to the park, yeah, but I can't carry groceries home without an SUV."
For global warming New Orleans was the sacrificial lamb in this storm, while greedy motorists hoard gas in Atlanta.
From coastal erosion and pipeline canals to filling in backswamps with sprawl, these were public policy decisions and there should be hell to pay.
Anyone who says that this is "no time for blame" probably has something to hide, or is beginning to understand their complicit role in this disaster
and seeking cover.
But that is not the worst of it. The worst of it is yet to come. The worst of it will be the way it is handled afterwards, especially the denial and
failure to recognize cause and effect. The leadership will pray. The leadership will talk about natural disasters and acts of god.
The leadership, from Washington DC to Baton Rouge and to Poydras Street, is interested in money, rich people, oil, extreme property rights,
hyper-consumption, and getting their frat boy or sorority friends in the loop. The American public, largely in the dark about the true causes of this
disaster, and largely complicit in this horror, will proceed to allow this pathetic leadership to misdiagnose and misallocate the rebuild, setting the
path for the next disaster.
Here is what should be done, but will not be done until true progressive reform occurs.
*Removal of sprawl around **New Orleans**:* Much of Greater New Orleans should not be rebuilt. I am not talking about the French Quarter or Victorian
sections and the development along the natural levees. What should not be rebuilt is the sprawl surrounding New Orleans. Get the sprawl out of the
backswamps. Retreat the levees. Empty all areas north of I-10 and along the Lakefront and recreate a marshland buffer zone all along the southshore.
This includes Metairie and Kenner. Even parts not currently flooded should be axed and replaced by wetlands. Empty New Orleans East & most of St
Bernard (except the natural levees) and recreate marshland buffers there too. The removal of this sprawl wasteland will take decades, should be done
in a methodical and coordinated manner, and with ecological restoration as first priority.
Remove the levees along Lake Pontchartrain and rebuild levees below I-610 (remove I-610). Restablish cypress swamps in the "bowl" of New Orleans.
*Rebuild of "old" **New Orleans*: A sustainable New Orleans rebuilt could densify and manage half a million people including tourists.
Permanent population might be lower. Rebuild and densify New Orleans along the natural levee including downtown, French Quarter, Marigny, Bywater,
Uptown, and Riverbend. Most of these are still intact. Gretna, Algiers, and West Bank areas along the natural levee get rebuilt too.
Mid City is debatable. Either empty or minimally rebuild with adequate drainage and more open space. The population of greater New Orleans (including
both east and west bank) would be under 500,000. The Greater New Orleans economy would center on tourism, arts, university, seafood processing, light
manufacturing in waterborne craft/ Shipbuilding, and a port (smaller than 2005). Construction and craftwork will be very important in the decade after
this storm. The city should create a systematic bike network, bus lanes, and expand streetcar. Reduce parking city-wide. Access to the city should be
primarily by rail. Flood control should be upgraded or rebuilt. Levees should be rebuilt closer to the cities natural levee, and massive ecological
restorations should be undertaken in all of the former sprawl surrounding the city. A civil conservation corps should be established.
*Baton Rouge**: *Electric passenger and freight rail from New Orleans to Baton Rouge should be constructed. Baton Rouge would be the primary entry to
New Orleans. Rail would utilize natural gas for electricity generation until another source can be found.
Build rail station in downtown Baton Rouge along present rail lines along the Mississippi. Create high density housing and retail-services
The city of Baton Rouge would experience major densification. Baton Rouge should be reconfigured into a compact city of 1.2 million. Main arterials
and highways should be lined with 3-4 story apartment buildings, with ground floor retail, services. No parking would be provided. The space would be
used for housing, services, and green space, and drainage – not car storage. Implement Bus Rapid Transit, priority bus lanes, bike lanes, wide
sidewalks, and eventually electric trams in dense areas radiating from downtown. Areas of densification would include: Florida Boulevard, I -10
corridor, Airline Highway, I-12 corridor, Scenic Highway corridor, Essen, BlueBonnet, Siegen, College.
The physical footprint of Baton Rouge should not be expanded. Rather, the city should absorb new population by developing all surface parking and low
density sprawl. The Baton Rouge economy would function as a regional commercial, government, service hub. Information, government, refining,
petrochemicals, food processing, freight distribution, and a minor port would make up the economy. Construction will dominate the economy for many
*Mississippi River**: *a greater portion of the Mississippi River should be diverted into the Atchafalaya. About 60- 70% of the total flow at Old
River (in Point Coupee Parish) should flow down the Atchafalaya. The remaining 30-40% continues down the present Mississippi. The flow down the
Mississippi should be preserved but significantly reduced. * *Strategically breach levees of the Mississippi north and South of New Orleans to allow
sedimentation, aid in replenishment of wetlands. Use New Orleans as a port until a new port is built on the Atchafalaya.
Maintain smaller-scale port in New Orelans as river levels are lower at New Orleans. Build new port on Atchafalaya at a suitable site to be
determined. Do not build one single mega-port. Build multiple smaller ports. Connect ports by rail, with modern intermodal facilities.
Minimize truck access.
*North** **Shore**: *Build passenger rail from Baton Rouge to Florida, Parallel to I-12. Focus compact development in Slidell, Covington, Hammond.
Distribute 200,000 along corridor as bead on a string along railway line. Economy – services, farming, food processing, light manufacturing. Wind
farms. Solar collector farms.
This disaster was largely caused by public policy. These public policies were centered on the accommodation, expansion, and unquestioned dominance of
unfettered automobility. It is only fair and logical to tax automobility and its supporting land uses – sprawl. The funding would be implemented
First, a 50 cent gas tax should be implemented nationwide for direct and immediate aid and disaster relief/ clean-up. It should remain in place until
every person is accounted for, fed, sheltered.
Second, an additional 50 cent gas tax should be implemented nationwide to finance the rebuild fund.
The US consumes 10 million barrels of oil a day. Each barrel is 42 gallons. A $1.00 tax per gallon (at the site of processing) would bring in 420
million dollars per day. All of that money should go to this disaster every day until the rebuild is complete.