Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cost of flood protection $32 billion.

New York Times publishes a more or less neutral article about the cost of flood protection for New Orleans. IMO, the cost would be worth it.
Building Category 5 protection, however, is proving to be an astronomically expensive and technically complex proposition. It would involve far more than just higher levees: there would have to be extensive changes to the city's system of drainage canals and pumps, environmental restoration on a vast scale to replenish buffering wetlands and barrier islands, and even sea gates far out of town near the Gulf of Mexico.

The cost estimates are still fuzzy, but the work would easily cost more than $32 billion, state officials say, and could take decades to complete.
. . . . . .
The current patchwork of local, state and federal agencies responsible for flood protection must be unified and streamlined, said Robert G. Bea, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The Corps of Engineers should manage the project, as it has done historically, Professor Bea said, but it has to avoid the piecemeal approach that has made the system more vulnerable over time. (The Louisiana Legislature recently voted down a proposal, however, that would have merged the levee boards that maintain the region's flood systems.)

Experts say that New Orleans also needs restrictions on where people can build, and a new, independent organization that has the power to set standards for levee strength around the nation and to inspect them. Greater emphasis on evacuation and safety plans, too, would be necessary.

It is perhaps too early to evaluate the new Authority created by the legislature to ride herd over the levee boards, but the legislation has real teeth, and budgetary authority. It may not prevent petty corruption, but there will be central, overall planning, and full authority to implement the plan.

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