Friday, September 09, 2005

We need to educate some Americans about this flood.

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.

We Louisianans need to tell the rest of the country how important New Orleans is, economically and culturally, to the United States. It is, of course, strategically located at the mouth of the Mississippi, and is therefore indispensible to the health of the entire Mississippi River drainage area. River barges carry crops, from the midwest for example, to be trans-shipped to the rest of the world, through the port of New Orleans. If that port were to cease to exist, farmers and all Americans would feel it in their pocketbooks. And a port needs a city to service it. Beyond that New Orleans is a site of world cultural importance. It is a treasure house of music, dance, cuisine, the arts. Would you move Venice or Amsterdam because they are subject to flooding? Did England give up on London because it flooded in the sixties? Of course not. Their countries value those cities as indispensible storehouses of history and of the spirit. So they built structures to protect them. We would all believe them fools if they didn't. It would be much more sensible and much more economical to simply protect New Orleans. Build levees high enough to keep out the lake -- at least as high as those along the river. And find ways of protecting the pumping system so that they are not damaged by floods and can be back online immediately. Find ways of sheltering the poor with dignity or moving them out of town when there is danger of a hurricane. There's no doubt that doing so would have cost us far, far less than the $50 billion we have handed to FEMA to help with recovery of a flood that should never have taken place.

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