Wednesday, September 14, 2005

California Flooding

Long Beach, California

Quick, name an American city of 450,000 where the majority of the population is non-white, where a quarter of the population lives in poverty, and where some of the city streets are, even on a dry day, below sea level.

New Orleans, of course.

But also, Long Beach, California.

So wrote Melana Vickers in Tech Central Station.

In New Orleans it has now been sadly realized that government inaction can lead to a horrific tragedy. But here I’m not talking about the inadequate response of FEMA, the Louisiana National Guard or the New Orleans mayor.

Back in 1965 following the extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Betsy (nicknamed Billion-Dollar Betsy) the Orleans Levee Board raised existing levees to a height of 12 feet and the US Congress funded the Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project that would have included flood gates and other protections.

Before long a lawsuit was filed by the environmental group Save Our Wetlands, Inc. that led finally in 1977 to a trial over the Environmental Impact Statement. The court ruled that the EIS was “legally inadequate” and that there were “serious questions as to the adequacy of cost-benefit analysis of the plan.” The project was killed.

Then Hurricane Katrina breached the levees, flooded New Orleans, the death toll already exceeds 425 and the estimated cost exceeds $100B. How’s that for cost-benefit?

Meanwhile back in Long Beach (and to Melana Vickers) the only barriers protecting its poor Blacks, Hispanics, Cambodians and others from drowning are berms and sea walls constructed by the government. Yet in California, politicians (including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein) and environmentalists battle against such walls. They argue that "beaches, surfing and the coastal lifestyle are things that people really care strongly about," and that the solution is government eviction from the coast, known as "managed retreat." Sea walls are ugly and an absolute no-no.

But people live there. In fact, 80 per cent of California's residents live within 30 miles of the systematically eroding coast. "Managed retreat" in favor of nature and beaches would represent the biggest government expulsion of humanity of all time, and it would represent government intervention just as surely as sea walls do.


Blogger Ralph said...

Are you trying to make me feel better about being 100 miles inland and 600 foot elevation?

7:12 AM  
Blogger alena said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the next hurricane 2005 ; the easy way to keep going.

12:33 AM  
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