Our present calamity is the result of indifference. Over the years, we handed over power, control and money to others who proved to be inept and/or corrupt. Now, as we turn to those same individuals to rescue us, we are surprised they have no answers.
On Saturday, Oct. 22, I attended a meeting for Lakeview residents. We learned little more than what we already knew. The real issue -- levees -- was not addressed. What I did learn was that the water and land are not toxic or polluted as feared ... because years ago the citizens did what government failed to do for decades: we cleaned up Lake Pontchartrain. We created the "Save the Lake Foundation" and got the job done.
The only people who are going to come out of this are those who help themselves and their neighbors. I for one will not watch our city die!
I propose a Save the City Foundation. Its mission statement should include the words, "Our city must and shall be saved." Our priority must be rebuilding the levees, floodgates and pumps so they truly protect us. As a private, people-driven entity, it can work with public officials and hold them accountable.
New Orleans is older than the United States itself. Louisiana doubled our country's size overnight. We bring incalculable resources the rest of America -- its second largest port, so much of its oil and gas, sugar and salt production, its seafood and its most unique culture.
Let us refuse to be victims or to be defeated. Let us do what Americans have always done when times are tough -- make it right, make it better. That's what makes us great.
There is a new and better New Orleans. Let's build it!
-- Mary Ann Bossetta Goodman
Let Them Fix It
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talks of "repairing" levees only to their former Category 3 levels and of hopes to finish before next June's hurricane season. They say that a "real fix" for a Category 5 hurricane will take decades -- and at least two years just to design. That estimate is, of course, foolish but highly probable based on the Corps of Engineers' past performance.
Congress, I think, lacks the will to "pull out the stops" and do it right, which could be done in less than three years if they divided the project into 15 or 20 pieces and had separate design and construction groups for each piece, all working simultaneously. Of course, neither Congress nor the Corps of Engineers will ever act intelligently.
One of the most basic local needs is to stop rising water (with floodgates as in Holland) from entering Lake Pontchartrain via the two passes to the gulf -- for a week or so before any hurricane comes ashore. Often times, the lake rises several feet before a storm even gets close. With that much "pre-loading," it doesn't take much of a surge to cause failures. I hear that a Category 5 plan was proposed to Congress years ago but that Louisiana's delegation could not get the plan considered seriously because it was estimated to cost about $14 billion. Good thinking, Congress -- save $14 billion and now incur a $300-billion-plus loss. That, on top of lives lost and trauma for a million people of one of our most culturally blessed cities!
The levee failures of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals were not from being topped; they failed from faulty design by the Corps of Engineers. The criminally short (17 1/2 feet long) sheet piles terminated in a strata of known bog -- decaying vegetation -- which means the levees were destined to fail. There may be numerous other levee sections that are similarly defective.
The levee failure in the Lower 9th Ward came primarily from storm surge racing up the Intracoastal Waterway and the stupid Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet "ditch," which caused flooding of that same area and St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Betsy in 1965. The MR-GO is also responsible for eroding thousands of acres of marsh. The Corps spends millions yearly keeping it dredged to about 38 feet so that an average of one ship a day can use it. That's another smart move by Congress. It now has a depth of only about 25 feet -- because of Katrina.
Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers caused this problem. They now have a duty to fix it -- and to pay for the damage caused by their past mistakes.
-- Harry Tabony