New Orleans Reconstruction Depends on Coastal Restoration
According to a recent progress report, the New Orleans of today is perhaps better off than the New Orleans before Katrina. There’s economic and entrepreneurial growth, renewed parks and recreation infrastructure and opportunities, and vibrant-as-ever arts and cultural communities. By many measures, the reconstruction is coming along nicely.
However, as the report puts it, “Creating a new New Orleans will mean little if it cannot be protected for the long-term.” Indeed, there is a lot riding on the 50-year, $50-billion plan to fortify New Orleans against rising waters and storms. But the deterioration of the Louisiana coast puts the comeback at risk.
Recent reports on the status of new levees and flood control systems, maintenance and financial issues, and current evacuation routes describe significant improvements but also significant worries about the region’s vulnerabilities. One can sense the civic seriousness and the broad determination to never face a Katrina-like disaster ever again. There’s a deeper understanding that levees and gates and flood walls defending the city need a more robust coastal buffer.
The restoration work itself can energize parts of the region’s economy. If done properly and successfully, the report’s authors said, restoration could “become the defining event for New Orleans — instead of Katrina.”
That is a hopeful thought as the eighth anniversary of the disaster approaches. And it would be an amazing accomplishment. But why not? Hard work has brought our region back from unimaginable damage, so why shouldn’t we be able to save the coast as well? And really, we must.