Monday, September 19, 2005

Hurricanes and Wetlands

I make no secret of my disgust for the current administration. But the latest piece of information, suggesting that Rove et al are fishing for ammunition to pin the levee mishaps on environmentalists is particularly wretched. This is from a piece from National Review a few weeks ago, where the author tried to tie in environmental groups opposed to new/reinforced levee systems near the Atchafalaya River and the Mississippi, northwest of New Orleans. These improved and new levees would prevent the Atchafalaya River from "capturing" the Mississippi, resulting in a diversion of the mouth of the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya and depriving New Orleans of it's major source of commerce. But the levees also prevent the Mississippi and Atchafalaya from flooding and depositing their sediment loads into wetlands. A little wetlands lesson here.....they protect from flood damage. Wetland soils absorb three times the water that upland (or dry ground) soils do, and they also allow the waterways to flood gradually. The alternative is a levee system which forces a river to continue carrying it's sediment, preventing many small floods, adding more and more sediment to the river bottom, and resulting in Catastrophic Flooding. Remember the Midwest during the Clinton years?

Regardless, the levees systems the National Review guy spoke about had nothing to do with flooding in New Orleans. And I have never heard of an environmental group opposed to the levee system around New Orleans. It is an old city and it must be protected. No argument. What National Review guy and Rove et al conveniently overlook is the loss of wetlands (by Republican policies) that extend from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. There used to be a swath of coastal wetlands that was over 90 miles wide. It is less than 30 miles wide today. Thanks to environmental policies pretty much written by lobbyists and the slash and burn approach of the oil industry, the wetland buffer that used to protect New Orleans just wasnt' there. And no, it didn't all happen during this Bush administration. The Clinton administration worked to build wetlands there, but this destruction dates back to pre-Reagan. They say that for every mile of wetlands, a hurricane is slowed by 1 mile per hour. I think a reduction in wind speed of 60 mph would have made a big difference to New Orleans, but you'll never see this addressed by this administration.


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