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Thread: Rebuilding New Orleans

  1. #46
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    State asks '60 Minutes' to hold report on sinking

    11/20/2005, 4:38 p.m. CT
    The Associated Press

    http://www.nola.com/newsflash/louisi...siana#continue


    BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) State officials have asked the CBS television show "60 Minutes" to postpone Sunday's scheduled segment highlighting a scientist's allegations that New Orleans is sinking and that residents should be induced to leave the city.

    Tim Kusky, a professor in the earth sciences department at St. Louis University, asserts on the show that New Orleans residents should "face the fact that their city will be below sea level in 90 years."

    He also recommends a "gradual pullout from the city, whose slow, steady slide into the sea was sped up enormously by Hurricane Katrina," according to a preview of the program.

    In a letter to CBS, Andy Kopplin, executive director of Louisiana Recovery Authority, asked the network to reconsider airing it.

    "We are very concerned about the preview of your story on New Orleans' future posted on the '60 Minutes' website and hope it is not an accurate reflection of your work," Kopplin wrote.

    "We know of many scientists and engineers who have spent considerable parts of their careers becoming experts in addressing coastal land loss in Louisiana and who disagree fundamentally with Prof. Kusky's purported comments."

    According to Kusky, "New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, sitting off the coast of North America surrounded by a 50- to 100-foot tall levee system to protect the city." He estimates this will happen in 90 years.

    "That's the projection, because we are losing land on the Mississippi Delta at a rate of 25 to 30 square miles per year. That's two acres per hour that are sinking below sea level," according to the segment.

    Kopplin's letter was attached to a letter from Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who strongly disputes Kusky's conclusions and questions Kusky's credentials.

    "I am dismayed by the advance report on the scheduled story on sinking of New Orleans which apparently is based on the perspectives of 'a natural disaster expert,'" he wrote. He also noted he's spent his career working on coastal environmental issues around the country and "until now, I have never heard of Prof. Kusky."

    Boesch's letter indicates that Kusky's expertise is in ophiolites rock sequences that formed on the oceanic edge of tectonic plates in the Archean eon about three billion years ago. He questioned an op-ed piece written for the Boston Globe in September suggesting it's time for New Orleanians to move out of the city, which Boesch said was "replete with serious errors of fact and logic."

    "The op-ed reads like an undergraduate paper a little bit of truth but with a lot of important information missing and not much deep thinking," Boesch wrote.

    "I am extremely disappointed that the widely viewed and well regarded '60 Minutes' would base a story on such an incredibly important issue on an 'expert' with so little standing on the subject and not seek the best scientific perspectives available," Boesch wrote.

    A telephone call Sunday to CBS seeking comment was not returned.

  2. #47
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    OK, instead of arguing the credentials of the person making the arguement, lets look at the FACTS of the matter:


    1. Most of NO is already under sea level.
    2. NO Is, has, and will be sinking gradually as time passes.
    3. There is a distinct possibility that Globla warming, whether caused by a natural cycle or by manmade means, will raise sea level by noticible ammounts.
    4. The warmer Gulf waters are another contributing factor to more storms and stronger individual storm systems.


    But we, the american people, in our own egocentric "this is my land" attitude (present in varying degrees by all humans) will fight to get all these poor people back inthe giant sinkhole so we can rescue them again when a cat5 splits the uprights and breaks an area of the levee not yet fortified or repaired.

    We need to repair the areas that will sustain the least ammount of damage, and try to reconvert the rest of it back to the Delta that it came from.

  3. #48
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The images that were shown on "60 minutes" of the amount of barrier island land lost during Katrina was pretty astonishing.

    Photos from before and after showed about 90 % loss.

  4. #49

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    November 22, 2005

    Louisiana Sees Faded Urgency in Relief Effort

    By JAMES DAO

    BATON ROUGE, La., Nov. 18 - Less than three months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, relief legislation remains dormant in Washington and despair is growing among officials here who fear that Congress and the Bush administration are losing interest in their plight.

    As evidence, the state and local officials cite an array of stalled bills and policy changes they say are crucial to rebuilding the city and persuading some of its hundreds of thousands of evacuated residents to return, including measures to finance long-term hurricane protection, revive small businesses and compensate the uninsured.

    "There is a real concern that we will lose the nation's attention the longer this takes," said Representative Bobby Jindal, a Republican from Metairie, just west of New Orleans. "People are making decisions now about whether to come back. And every day that passes, it will be a little harder to get things done."

    Officials from both parties say the bottlenecks have occurred in large part because of a leadership vacuum in Washington, where President Bush and Congress have been preoccupied for weeks with Iraq, deficit reduction, the C.I.A. leak investigation and the Supreme Court.

    Congressional leaders have been scrambling to rein in spending, and many in Washington have grumbled that Louisiana's leaders have asked for too much, while failing to guarantee that the money will be spent efficiently and honestly.

    By contrast, many say, Washington's response to the Sept. 11 attacks seemed more focused and sustained.

    Now, with the holiday season days away and the 2006 midterm elections just around the bend, many Louisiana officials say they fear the sense of urgency that spurred action in September is swiftly draining away.

    Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat, said recently on CNN, "We feel like we are citizens of the United States who are nearly forgotten."

    Walter Isaacson, vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, drew a parallel between the governmental dithering in the immediate aftermath of the flood and the current situation, saying a lack of action now would be devastating to New Orleans's economy.

    "It's like when FEMA wasn't really that creative, and the water was rising and people were stranded," Mr. Isaacson said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Once again, people are being stranded and businesses are starting to die."

    But Donald Powell, who began work this week as President Bush's liaison for the reconstruction effort, said that while the sense of urgency might have faded somewhat, "The president is committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast."

    Few people in Congress are openly threatening to block money for reconstruction. More typical are sotto voce mumblings about whether federal money will be squandered through incompetence or graft by Louisiana officials. And some lawmakers have openly wondered whether each neighborhood in New Orleans needs to be rebuilt and protected with expensive floodwalls.

    Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, raised concerns about Congressional commitment to New Orleans when he said during a tour of the city that Alaskan towns damaged by storms were often relocated. Mr. Stevens also warned that the spate of recent natural disasters meant that Louisiana might not receive money as swiftly as it would like.
    He said later that his words had been misunderstood, and colleagues said he had spoken movingly to Republican Senators about the devastation he had witnessed. Still, such comments prompted The Times-Picayune of New Orleans to publish an editorial on Nov. 13 titled "Forgotten Already."

    "There was an emergency window of opportunity in September that is basically closed," said Ron Faucheux, a vice president of the American Institute of Architects, who is lobbying for reconstruction measures in Washington. "What's needed is to pry open that window again."

    Louisiana officials credit Mr. Bush with pushing bills through Congress after the hurricane that provided $62 billion for storm recovery, much of which has not been spent. And they applauded his appointment of Mr. Powell, a former banker and chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

    [On Saturday, Governor Blanco also announced that the Bush administration had agreed to continue paying 100 percent for certain storm relief services, including debris removal, until Jan. 15.]

    But in recent weeks, Louisiana officials say, the administration has been less forceful on recovery measures. "We're still relying on the president's promise to help New Orleans rebuild," said Mr. Isaacson, referring to Mr. Bush's Sept. 15 pledge that the federal government "will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

    Mr. Isaacson added, "I think we need a push from the president himself" to get federal financing for major projects.

    In some cases the administration is even blocking action sought by Louisiana officials, those officials assert. The most significant of those measures, lawmakers from both parties say, is a bipartisan Senate bill that would authorize $450 million in bridge loans and grants to hurricane-damaged businesses.

    The bill, whose sponsors include Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, would also allow businesses to defer payments on federal loans and would increase the size of disaster loans.

    Though a similar package of benefits was approved after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Small Business Administration has opposed the new Senate bill as too costly. Mr. Isaacson said the bill would not pass without White House intervention. "The winds have shifted against us," he said.

    Ms. Snowe, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has also chastised the S.B.A. for the slow processing of 250,000 disaster loan applications, which has created a four-month backlog. The agency said it was trying to hire 1,000 new processors, but Ms. Snowe called its response "sluggish" and "confused."

    "They'll tell you it is an unprecedented disaster, but they won't muster an unprecedented response," she said. "We should have moved heaven and earth to get this done."

    Louisiana officials have also complained about opposition from the Bush administration to proposals to dedicate a stream of money for restoring coastal wetlands and constructing levees capable of withstanding Category 5 hurricanes.

    Though that work will take years to complete, a federal commitment to provide money - more than $20 billion - is needed soon to encourage insurance companies, businesses and homeowners to invest in the region, state officials say.

    But the Bush administration has objected to a bipartisan proposal that would give the state up to 40 percent of the more than $5 billion in annual federal revenues generated by Louisiana's offshore oil and gas industries. The state now receives only a small portion of those royalties.

    "The political will is there in Congress to do this," said Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana and a strong advocate of the oil revenue plan. "We have to get leadership from the White House. Their tight-fisted policies are cutting off their nose to spite their face."

    Mr. Powell said that the administration was committed to flood protection and that a compromise on the royalties issue was possible. "It's very important that people feel like the region is safe when they move back," he said.

    Many Louisiana officials acknowledge that some problems in Washington stem from the widespread perception that state and local governments here are rife with inefficiency and corruption.

    Governor Blanco has tried to counter that image by pushing measures in the Legislature that would allow the state to take over failing schools in New Orleans, oversee levee construction now handled by patronage-filled levee boards, and cut state spending by nearly $600 million.

    The state has hired the large accounting firm Deloitte & Touche to oversee the spending of federal relief money, and has promised to crack down on any cases of corruption. Another accounting group, UHY, was hired to monitor Deloitte.

    Louisiana officials also acknowledge that some problems have been self-inflicted, starting with a $250 billion relief package introduced by Senator Landrieu and Senator David Vitter, a Republican, in September. The package was ridiculed by many in Congress as unrealistically expensive.

    Representative Jindal said House Republicans had taken a more "rifle-shot" approach of trying to pass bills addressing specific issues.

    For example, Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from Baton Rouge, has introduced legislation to create a corporation authorized to issue bonds to buy destroyed properties. The corporation would sell the properties to developers. Former owners would then have the first right to buy refurbished properties. Governor Blanco and Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans have endorsed the bill.

    But many people in Louisiana remain concerned that there are too many voices in Washington pushing different proposals, while fundamental issues remain unresolved.

    "People want government to speak with one voice," said Keith Villere, a town planner from St. Tammany Parish, just north of New Orleans. "If they don't unite, the federal government will forget about St. Tammany. They'll forget about New Orleans. And they'll forget about Katrina, just like they forgot about the tsunami."


  5. #50

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    November 26, 2005

    Mardi Gras to the Rescue? Doubts Grow.

    By JERE LONGMAN

    NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 24 - After Hurricane Katrina floored this city, there was widespread hope that Mardi Gras would yank New Orleans back to its feet, helping to reclaim its spirit, its tourists and its economy.

    The two weeks of Mardi Gras parades and parties have for decades been the city's binding cord, bringing together all segments of society and thousands of outsiders for a mix of the sacred and the profane. But with planning for the February Carnival season now under way, Mardi Gras has been plagued by harsh financial realities, indecision, lowered expectations and the possibility that this year's parade lineup could be absent some of its most popular krewes, or social clubs.

    After the city announced plans for smaller and fewer Mardi Gras parades, dissatisfied krewes protested. Responding to the pressure, an advisory panel to Mayor C. Ray Nagin recommended Wednesday that an additional weekend be included in an abbreviated Mardi Gras parade season. The mayor is expected to agree to a pre-Lenten Carnival season of eight days, instead of the customary 12, culminating Feb. 28 on Mardi Gras Day (known in English as Fat Tuesday).

    Yet while city officials and merchants are desperate for symbols of recovery and renewal, some residents are concerned about the message that will be projected when New Orleans holds a giant party in a hurricane's catastrophic wake.

    The coming Mardi Gras will celebrate 150 years of New Orleans's parade tradition and, officials hope, provide a fiscal bloody mary for a hung-over economy that has suffered a shutdown of vital tourism and a layoff of half of the municipal work force.

    Mardi Gras pumps $1 billion directly and indirectly into the local economy each year, the equivalent of several Super Bowls, city officials say.

    While Carnival is intended to signal that New Orleans is open for business again, residents say they also need the celebration for themselves, to affirm the city's essence - a piquant improvisation evident in the food, music, irreverence and self-indulgence.

    "If not one tourist comes to town, Mardi Gras will still serve its initial purpose - entertaining local people," said Ed Muniz, founder and captain of the Krewe of Endymion, which holds one of the largest and most lavish Mardi Gras parades. "I think the locals need a celebration of life.

    The funeral has got to end, and the recovery has got to begin."
    City and Mardi Gras officials say they are confident that the 2006 Carnival season can be of high quality. But several issues, mostly financial, remain unresolved.

    At a tense planning meeting on Monday, Warren J. Riley, the acting police superintendent, said his department welcomed Mardi Gras, understood its social and financial importance and could provide adequate protection for paradegoers. But Superintendent Riley also said there was no money budgeted to pay overtime to New Orleans's 1,442 police officers. All parades will have to follow one route, down St. Charles Avenue, and each day's parading can last no longer than eight hours, he said.

    "We do not have $5 for overtime," Superintendent Riley said, explaining that such costs ran as high as $300,000 to $400,000 on weekends during Mardi Gras.

    The city reconsidered that position on Wednesday, saying it was seeking to raise an additional $1.5 million to extend Mardi Gras over two weekends and to pay for overtime on several days. Krewes have agreed to relax a prohibition on corporate sponsorship of Mardi Gras, but say they will not allow corporate logos on floats.

    Wednesday's recommendation came after warnings by krewes that 10 parades might be canceled or moved. Mr. Muniz, the Endymion captain, said Monday that plans to trim Mardi Gras were sending a message to tourists "not to come." He threatened to move his parade to adjacent Jefferson Parish.

    "I want to be in New Orleans, but if I've got to cut my parade in half, I'm not going to parade in New Orleans," said Mr. Muniz, whose krewe has 2,300 members.

    On Wednesday, Mr. Muniz said he felt assured that overtime money would be raised to accommodate his parade in full.

    The Krewe of Zulu, established in 1909 and representing a cross section of African-American society, will decide on Dec. 4 whether to participate in the coming Mardi Gras. Many of the krewe's 500-plus members lived in the heavily damaged New Orleans East section and remain out of town and out of contact, said Andrew Pete Sanchez, the club's chairman of Carnival activities.

    "The feeling is mixed," Mr. Sanchez said. "Those who have returned home support participation. Those in opposition want to be able to come home first."

    The decorated coconuts thrown by Zulu's members are among the most distinctive and sought-after Mardi Gras trinkets. "There's no Mardi Gras without Zulu," said Arthur Hardy, a Carnival historian and publisher of a definitive Mardi Gras guide. "They're just too much part of the celebration."

    Among other possible casualties are the Mardi Gras Indians, African-Americans who dress in elaborately feathered costumes in honor of Indians who helped runaway slaves. The Mardi Gras Indians celebrate with theatrical confrontations among "tribes," but some find themselves short of the material and thousands of dollars needed to make their costumes, said Alfred Doucette, big chief of the Flaming Arrows tribe.

    "I don't have no more supplies," Mr. Doucette said. "I need feathers and stuff."

    His costumes require 10 pounds of ostrich feathers that cost about $5 apiece, Mr. Doucette, a singer, said, explaining that it had been difficult to find work as a musician since Hurricane Katrina struck in August.

    Speaking of other chieftains, he said, "They would like to come, but they're short on money this year."

    If African-American participation is severely curtailed, Mardi Gras may run the risk of further delineating the class and racial divide exposed after the hurricane.

    No one seriously considered canceling Mardi Gras in 2006. That would have been "a big blow to the psychology of New Orleanians," said Wayne Phillips, curator of costumes and textiles at the Louisiana State Museum here. "It is not just a frivolous celebration of costumes and beads, but an ingrained part of our psyche."

    Still, locals acknowledge, the approaching Mardi Gras will require a delicate balance that validates a city's spirit without minimizing the devastation and dislocation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

    Some said they worried that outsiders might receive conflicting signals from scenes of partying and drinking in a disaster area at a time when New Orleans has its hand out for billions in federal money.

    "I have mixed feelings," said Barry Barth, a float builder. "I want my business to go on, but I don't think the rest of the country understands Mardi Gras. I'm concerned they're going to see it as a waste of money instead of New Orleans coming back. Or they may say, 'These guys don't look like they're that bad off.' "

    City and Mardi Gras officials point to a study indicating that the 2000 Carnival season generated $55 million in tax revenue for local, parish and state governments, including $21 million for New Orleans itself, a nearly fivefold return on the $4.5 million spent on police, sanitation and emergency services.

    New Orleans expects to have 22,000 hotel rooms available for tourists in February. Even with a scaled-down Mardi Gras, "we can't afford not to do it," said Blaine Kern, the city's largest float builder, who is known as Mr. Mardi Gras.

    If only half of the usual tax revenue is generated, Mr. Kern said, "that's still something."

    The more satirical krewes are certain to skewer politicians who have been widely criticized for the government response to Hurricane Katrina. According to sketches of the Krewe of Muses parade, its television theme will lampoon Mayor Nagin, who faces re-election in February, as a star in "The Ex Files" and "Sixty Feet Under."

    The canine Krewe of Barkus will celebrate animals rescued after the hurricane and is exploring the theme of "A Street Dog Named Desire." About 700 dogs are expected in the parade, along with a tabby cat, several ferrets and a goat. As usual, the queen will arrive by riverboat to be greeted by a king awaiting with Champagne and a gift, perhaps a rhinestone-encrusted paw-print brooch.

    "All this will be forgotten when the first float rolls," Mr. Hardy, the Mardi Gras historian, said of the current crisis. "The story is not that New Orleans will have a smaller Mardi Gras, but that it can do Mardi Gras at all."


  6. #51

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    November 29, 2005

    For Category 5 Safety, Levees Are Piece of a $32 Billion Pie


    Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

    Sand still covered an area last week where the London Avenue levee was breached by Hurricane Katrina.


    By JOHN SCHWARTZ

    NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 22 - Amid all the arguments over how to rebuild this pummeled city, there is one universally held article of faith here: New Orleans must have a flood protection system strong enough to withstand Category 5 storms, the worst that nature can spawn.

    It is a rallying cry heard on radio broadcasts and in a front-page editorial in The Times-Picayune, in ruined neighborhoods and in corporate boardrooms.

    Strong protection is the linchpin that everything else depends on, said Joe Veninata, the owner of a shopping center and rental homes in the Gentilly neighborhood, "for people to come to the city and invest, for the people to feel secure."

    "Without that," Mr. Veninata said, "we can't build New Orleans anymore."

    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 levee system around the city was designed to withstand the equivalent of a Category 3 storm, and the Army Corps of Engineers is spending $1 billion to bring the damaged sections to their original design strength. They plan to complete that effort before next year's hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

    But a sense of how much more extensive Category 5 protection would be can be found 23 miles east of downtown New Orleans at a strait called the Rigolets, which connects the gulf and Lake Pontchartrain. For nearly 200 years, the brick bastion of Fort Pike has looked down on the two-thirds-mile gap, which the fort was built to protect against military threats from land or sea.

    These days, however, the threat is from the sea itself. A surge from storms like Hurricane Katrina can push water through the gap and send floods deep into the city. So engineers and other experts say that the Corps of Engineers should build a gate across the Rigolets (pronounced RIG-uh-lees) that could be shut in the face of a storm.

    From a viewpoint by the remains of Fort Pike looking across the sparkling water, the project seems enormously daunting, on a scale of the flood systems that protect cities like London and Amsterdam. And it is only one step toward the goal of fortifying New Orleans to the highest level. Congress only recently agreed to give $8 million to the corps for a study about providing increased protection for South Louisiana, with a preliminary report due in six months. The final plan is two years away.

    While every expert has a list of things that would upgrade the city's flood controls, Category 5 protection is not easy to define, experts say. Dan Hitchings, director of Task Force Hope, the corps's Hurricane Katrina relief effort, noted that Category 3 hurricanes were specifically defined while Category 5 includes any hurricanes with winds greater than 155 miles an hour and a storm surge greater than 18 feet.

    "What's the top end for a Cat 5 hurricane?" Mr. Hitchings said. "There isn't one."

    Herbert Saffir, a co-creator of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, said he would not recommend designing a Category 5 protection system because such a storm would be unlikely to hit any particular spot more than once in 500 years. Only three Category 5 storms in recorded history have made landfall in the United States, Mr. Saffir said; Hurricane Katrina had been a Category 5 in the gulf but was at Category 4 at most when it landed east of New Orleans near Buras, La.

    Others disagree. Maarten van der Vlist, an engineer with Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch equivalent of the Corps of Engineers, said that after a disastrous flood in 1953, the Netherlands chose to protect against flooding that occurs once every 10,000 years.

    Most Category 5 proposals for New Orleans include devices to close seaward passageways like the Rigolets and gates at the mouths of today's drainage and navigation canals. Jurjen Battjes, a professor of civil engineering at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and an expert on levee systems, said that approach had worked well in his country. "You don't want to let your enemy invade deeply into your territory," Professor Battjes said. "Close your fence at the outside."

    Current levees can be made higher and stronger, and any new system might also include internal levees that would prevent a breach in one spot from swamping large stretches of the city, said Thomas F. Wolff, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University. Levees, Professor Wolff said, are known as "series systems," which he compared to "Christmas tree lights from the 1950's - when one goes out, they all go out."

    That levee work must be coupled with the restoration of coastal marshes and barrier islands that can blunt the progress of a storm, said Ivor van Heerden, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University and deputy director of the university's hurricane center.

    "Where you had wetland, the levees were not eroded," Professor van Heerden said of Hurricane Katrina's damage, "and where you did not have wetlands, the levees were annihilated."

    But local efforts are only part of the challenge. Many experts say it is no less important to reorganize the nation's method of designing and building flood systems.

    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.

    But corps officials say that it is impossible to predict the next storm. Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, the chief of engineers for the corps, said in an interview in Washington that focusing too tightly on what went wrong about Hurricane Katrina could lead to less effective plans for the future.

    "We don't need to be fighting the last war all the time," General Strock said. The next storm could come up through the center of the city, or along the west side, swamping the western river basins and overflowing the levees along the Mississippi River that held during Hurricane Katrina.

    Even if many of the current proposals can be accomplished, Mr. van der Vlist said, it remains hard to know whether they would really be able to withstand a Category 5 storm. "In the Netherlands, we don't have hurricanes like you have," he said. The low-lying nation is protected against the forces of water, but does not experience the crushing power of hurricane winds.

    New Orleans may be able to get by with a protection level less than that required to resist a Category 5 storm, if it is robustly designed and built, said Robert A. Dalrymple, a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers team that investigated the levee breaches.

    "If you have a Category 3 protection system and a Category 4 storm hits it, there will be overtopping of the walls," Professor Dalrymple said. But if the walls can be built so that they can resist the scouring action of the overflowing water, and "if the walls stay there, there will only be flooding for several hours," he added. The street drains and pumping stations could then remove the water.

    The cost of any significant upgrade, however, will be enormous - more than the $21 billion spent on New York City after 9/11, but less than the $57 billion to be spent on highway construction and maintenance in the recent federal transportation bill. Washington and state governments spend about $160 billion a year on infrastructure, including roads, transit and utilities, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

    Given a large federal deficit and other demands for money, however, there is still no indication that Washington will pay the $32 billion or more for full protection.

    Scott A. Angelle, the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources for Louisiana, said that fortifying New Orleans to the highest level could be accomplished by giving Louisiana half of revenues from federal leasing for offshore oil and gas drilling beyond the three-mile territorial limit in the gulf. The plan, which has been proposed in legislation by Louisiana's United States senators, Mary L. Landrieu and David Vitter, would produce as much as $2.5 billion a year. The state currently receives no money for drilling beyond the limit.

    The work ahead, Mr. Angelle said, is daunting but certainly possible. "We can fix anything that we focus on," he said. "We, as a people, and we, as Americans."

  7. #52
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    It seems as though a lot of local property owners will be getting the short end of the stick ...

    Gulf Planning Roils Residents

    By BRADFORD McKEE
    NY Times
    December 8, 2005


    James Edward Bates for The New York Times

    In Biloxi, Richard Fredrickson stops by the house of his friend Martha Bryant,
    who said she will rebuild despite proposed plans to turn the area into a resort.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/08/garden/08gulf.html


    BILOXI, Miss.

    EVER since the water rose over Andrea Harris's white bungalow on Elmer Street during Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Harris has been keeping a scrapbook. It holds three daily prayers, news clippings, the business cards of people who have helped her and angry letters to those who have not - including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which she said took two months to deliver trailers. Until then, she and her neighbors lived in tents.

    Now her scrapbook is filling with new worries. At a town meeting Nov. 30, Ms. Harris, 43, and her neighbors had gotten their first glimpse of new plans for Biloxi, developed by a state commission organized by Gov. Haley Barbour and a group of architects known as the Congress for the New Urbanism.

    The plans made passing references to restoring sleepy older neighborhoods like hers, but focused heavily on remaking Biloxi as a more polished tourist magnet to rival Paradise Island. The plans proposed changing Highway 90 along Biloxi's coast, home to several of its casinos, into a new "Beach Boulevard." They also envisioned recreating a fishing harbor as a "seafood village," with clusters of condominiums, stores and restaurants. And it envisioned a streetcar running through town to shuttle people to new resorts and casinos.

    "We want to see the casino activity here go beyond gaming," said Elizabeth Moule, an architect in Pasadena, Calif., and a founder of the New Urbanist group. "You're really competing with Myrtle Beach."




    A blueprint for proposed rebuilding.

    But for homeowners like Ms. Harris, golf courses and shopping promenades are not a priority. "It's like they're making it for Casino Row," she said last week. Her hair was pulled back in a loose braid, and her eyes flashed from exhaustion to fury. "Are you trying to turn this into a Sin City, or what?"

    The Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, established in late September, is charged with planning the reconstruction of 11 coastal towns, including Biloxi, along with issuing a broader set of recovery guidelines due at the end of December. The town plans, drawn up in about six weeks, are meant to serve as blueprints for state and local leaders.

    The New Urbanists, who organized in 1993, have become controversial for opposing suburban sprawl, instead designing old-fashioned town centers with picturesque streets lined by traditional parks, dense housing and stores. New Urbanism's critics, mostly modernist architects and academics, consider its designs a form of nostalgia catering to developers and rich homeowners, too rigid and retrograde for contemporary needs.

    But politicians in the hurricane zone are finding New Urbanism's formulas for rebuilding persuasive. Last week, following Governor Barbour's lead in inviting New Urbanists to develop plans, the Louisiana Recovery Authority said it had hired three firms to develop "a comprehensive regional vision," for areas outside New Orleans hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The firms include those of the leading New Urbanists, Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of Miami and Peter Calthorpe of Berkeley, Calif.

    This week, KB Home, one of the nation's largest homebuilding companies, announced plans to build up to 20,000 houses across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, near Avondale. KB Home specializes in the type of suburban tract development that the New Urbanist movement opposes.

    Ms. Harris knew nothing of the New Urbanists. She went to the meeting hoping for answers to basic questions, such as what the new building codes and flood elevations for Biloxi will be, so she and her neighbors can begin rebuilding their houses.

    She found the town meetings had more to do with plans for replacing her neighborhood than restoring it. Lately, she and several neighbors said, surveyors have started showing up daily on her ruined street, some taking pictures of their houses and one bearing a plan that would place a resort on her property. "We were told by the surveyors that a golf course was going to run through my yard," Ms. Harris said.

    Like other people in the neighborhood, called Point Cadet, she said she wonders whether city officials will encourage her and her neighbors to stay put and rebuild the houses they own, or whether they will be run off to make the town a tourist playground. Before the storm, Point Cadet was home to several floating casinos. In October, Governor Barbour signed a law that allows casinos to be built on land within 800 feet of the water, rather than restricting them to floating barges. At least one is planned for Point Cadet.

    With their hold on Gulf Coast planning, the New Urbanists face their biggest task to date. In the past, many of their developments have been built on virgin sites, or were made to replace run-down public housing in cities. Now they have large areas of 11 badly damaged towns, from Waveland eastward to Pascagoula, to serve as blank slates.

    "They're approaching it as if it's raw land," said William Morrish, a professor of architecture at the University of Virginia. In 1993, Mr. Morrish was a founding member of the New Urbanist group but later broke away over what he believed was intolerance toward new eclectic forms of architecture and urban design. "On the issues of transportation and transit, they've done an excellent job," Mr. Morrish said. But he objected to what he said was the New Urbanists' imposing particular architectural styles - namely "neotraditional" styles - in a place like Mississippi.

    "A particular style does not promote a certain kind of sustainability or democracy," Mr. Morrish added. "You can't approach building a city like it's a 30-acre development."

    Ms. Harris left the meeting unsatisfied. "It's like they just push us away," she said. She found the plans mostly "worried about the beachfront, condominiums, the fishing harbor." She did not like what she heard about plans for housing. "They said 'affordable low-income housing,' " she recalled. "We already own our homes."

    Her concerns, she said, have not been alleviated by her mayor, A. J. Holloway, or by William Stallworth, her city council member, both of whom, she said, had turned away from her questions in public meetings.

    Mr. Holloway disputed her account. "I never turned my back on anybody," he said. He said he did not know the precise location of Elmer Street. "I do know that Elmer Street won't be a casino," Mr. Holloway said. "But somebody might be surveying. It's not anything the city is doing." Mr. Stallworth was traveling and could not be reached.

    Ms. Harris's fears are resounding through Point Cadet's shattered streets as wholesale land clearing by the government rolls slowly westward from the point's eastern tip. Three blocks from the water on Oak Street, Martha Bryant, 44, a licensed contractor, said she is rebuilding her house with her friend, Richard Fredrickson, despite what she sees as resistance from the city.

    "They've made my life a living hell since they found out I'm going to move back there," Ms. Bryant said, requiring permits that she found excessive.

    She noted that plans for a $400 million Golden Nugget resort with a 60,000-square-foot casino near her home were announced in late November.

    "They want to put up an amusement park, a golf course," she said. "I'm east of Oak Street. They're saying everything east of Oak is going to go."

    Ms. Bryant, who owns a painting business, erected a multicolored plywood sign on the front of her house that reads: "Hell No I Won't Go."

    Her neighbor Elaine Parker, 61, with whom Ms. Bryant made a pact not to sell their houses, hung a protest sign as well. It read: "Now Recruiting Point Cadet Militia People vs. City."

    Soon after she hung the sign behind her front fence, a city code enforcement officer came and took it down, she said, for being on city property.

    "Of course, you had to be born and raised on Point Cadet to understand the humor in it," Ms. Parker said. Point Cadet has historically been a tough part of town. "We've lost everything, and now are you going to take my sense of humor away from me?"

    Ms. Parker asked the enforcement officer whether she could hang the sign on her house, well within her property line. "He said a citation will be issued and you will be put in jail for up to two days," she recalled.

    "Can I get 30 days?" she said she asked him. "Because three hots and a cot is more than I got."



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    Wealthy Blacks Oppose Plans for Their Property

    By GARY RIVLIN
    New York Times
    December 10, 2005

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/10/na...l/10exile.html




    Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

    Seven former residents of New Orleans East, where many elite blacks lived,
    organize weekly meetings in Baton Rouge, La., for their ex-neighbors.


    BATON ROUGE, La., Dec. 9 - True Light Baptist Church is located in a down-and-out part of town here, but on Monday nights its parking lot fills with BMW's, Mercedes-Benzes and other late-model sedans that shine with a new-car sparkle.

    Since September, hundreds of displaced residents from New Orleans East, the neighborhood that was home to the largest concentration of the city's black elite, gather there for a small taste of the camaraderie and community that they sorely miss. But the residents - whose ranks include lawyers, judges and a few elected officials - are also anxiously mobilizing to save their low-lying corner of the city, which some planners argue should revert to marshland.

    So far, the group has used its clout to extract a promise that electricity will be turned on in the neighborhood next month, instead of waiting until June. It has also speeded the return of water service. Without either, many residents say, they must wait in Baton Rouge longer even if their neighborhood is open.


    Misty Keasler for The New York Times

    About 1,000 displaced residents of New Orleans East gather each week
    for a forum at True Light Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

    New Orleans's mayor, C. Ray Nagin, spent an evening at one of the group's meetings recently, hearing of the residents' longing to return home. But despite the group's considerable resources, the plan taking shape to remake the city lumps New Orleans East and its 90,000 residents with the Lower Ninth Ward and other deluged neighborhoods as the last priority of the city as it struggles to rebuild. The Urban Land Institute, a planning group advising the city, recommended that the city begin rebuilding less damaged neighborhoods first, provoking outrage from residents of the flood zones.

    "It would kill the black psyche if New Orleans East wasn't rebuilt," said Talmadge Wall, an interior designer who for 15 years has lived with her husband and children in New Orleans East. "Think of what it would mean if the city successfully chased off so many African-Americans who had money, its doctors and successful businesspeople and lawyers and such. People who were aspiring to attain that kind of success would no longer feel like they have a chance."

    At last Monday's meeting, organizers handed out black, white and green lawn signs that read, "I am coming home! I will rebuild!"

    The meetings, which date to mid-September, have drawn upward of 1,000 people. Organizers say they have helped inspire the formation of similar support groups for displaced New Orleans residents in cities throughout the South.

    "There's a real lonesomeness, a real yearning to connect with the familiar that I think everybody feels," said Tangeyon Wall, who with her sister Talmadge and their two other sisters and a cousin formed this neighborhood organization in exile.

    Other, poorer neighborhoods have received more attention since the storm.

    The Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Wards, for example, have for decades been home to a majority of the city's blue-collar African-Americans: waiters, construction workers and custodians. New Orleans East, which barely existed in the 1970's, has been the site of most of the city's development over the past 30 years. It has become the next stop for children of blue-collar workers who moved up after securing better-paying professional jobs.

    That has been the trajectory of Alden J. McDonald Jr.'s life. Mr. McDonald, the chief executive of Liberty Bank and Trust, New Orleans's largest black-owned bank, is the son of a waiter and grew up in the Seventh Ward. In 1974, the younger Mr. McDonald was a trailblazer when he moved his family into New Orleans East. A dozen years later, he bought a larger home there, complete with a swimming pool and an exercise room.

    "New Orleans East represents the first time in New Orleans history that the African-American community has seen significant wealth creation that they can hand down to the next generation," said Mr. McDonald, who has attended several meetings at True Light.

    The Wall family took a path similar to the McDonalds'. The sisters' father was a contractor, and their mother was a schoolteacher. The first two Wall sisters moved to New Orleans East in the mid-1980's, the last at the start of the 90's. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, the Wall sisters hunkered down in a set of rooms at their temporary new home, a Microtel Inn and Suites along Interstate 12 on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, surfing television news in a vain search for information about New Orleans East.

    A predominantly black community that was also prosperous, it seemed, did not fit the broad-brush story as it played out on the television. "Our neighborhood was never talked about," Tangeyon Wall said. "Never, ever, ever. We'd hear about the Ninth Ward, we'd hear about Algiers and the Quarter and Uptown, but it was as if our community didn't exist."

    At the Wal-Mart, Walgreens and other stores around Baton Rouge, the sisters ran into neighbors who all expressed the same frustrations. That prompted them and their cousin Robyn Braggs to post fliers at local motels proposing a meeting for Sept. 20, an event that drew 700, they said. Most, but not all, were from New Orleans East.

    "That first meeting was more like a reunion," Tangeyon Wall said.

    The second meeting was more like a rallying cry. At that point, New Orleans East was still off limits even to residents. But a group of neighborhood residents decided to defy the restrictions, and shortly thereafter, in late September, they drove a caravan of 75 cars to their neighborhood. City officials allowed them to pass through police blockades.

    "It was all very civil rights and spirit of the 60's-like," said Ms. Braggs, prompting giggles among her four cousins. The five of them, along with Wayne Johnson and Mack Slan, two other longtime New Orleans East residents marooned in Baton Rouge, make up a seven-member steering committee that meets every Wednesday to set the next week's agenda.

    "We didn't know what we were getting into when we started," said Mr. Slan, a contractor with a barrel chest and preacher's voice who has emerged as the group's de facto master of ceremonies. "But we're growing into it."

    The focus each Monday shifts as new frustrations and worries take center stage in the lives of evacuees. Last Monday those included complaints about insurance adjusters and the foreclosure notices some are receiving three months after the storm.

    "Let me encourage you not to panic," said Patricia G. Woods, who runs a real estate and mortgage company in New Orleans East.

    Ms. Woods advised the people at the meeting to respond with a hardship letter spelling out the reasons they could not make their payments. "Make them cry," Ms. Woods told the group.

    Much of Monday's meeting focused on the Urban Land Institute's draft report, released on the Monday after Thanksgiving. "It places less value on our neighborhood than other areas," said Terrel J. Broussard, a lawyer who took a turn at the lectern to criticize the report. "If we don't stand up to fight this, I don't know what we would stand up for."

    Organizers passed out stacks of preprinted postcards that they hope homeowners in New Orleans East will send to the mayor, respectfully requesting that he reject the institute's recommendation. They also urged those in attendance to spread the word about a march on New Orleans City Hall scheduled for Saturday morning.

    "We can't allow ourselves to be the last ones back in the city," one resident, Margaret Richard, said.


    Copyright 2005The New York Times Company

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    Gulf Planning Roils Residents

    ..new plans for Biloxi, developed by a state commission organized by Gov. Haley Barbour and a group of architects known as the Congress for the New Urbanism.

    The New Urbanists, who organized in 1993, have become controversial for opposing suburban sprawl, instead designing old-fashioned town centers with picturesque streets lined by traditional parks, dense housing and stores. New Urbanism's critics, mostly modernist architects and academics, consider its designs a form of nostalgia catering to developers and rich homeowners, too rigid and retrograde for contemporary needs.

    But politicians in the hurricane zone are finding New Urbanism's formulas for rebuilding persuasive.
    Seaside at 25: Troubles in Paradise

    By FRED A. BERNSTEIN
    New York Times
    December 9, 2005

    http://travel2.nytimes.com/2005/12/0...09seaside.html

    Phil Sears for The New York Times

    BEACHFRONT Seaside is installing new
    aluminum stairs to replace wooden ones
    lost in July to Hurricane Dennis.
    A good bit of beach was also lost.


    SEASIDE, Fla., which will be 25 years old in 2006, is America's most imitated town. With its pastel-colored houses and front porches overlooking narrow, brick-paved streets, it has influenced hundreds of communities, which combine a nostalgia for small-town life with a serious effort to reduce suburban sprawl - and dependence on the auto - by putting buildings close together.

    So popular are the "New Urbanist" ideas spawned at Seaside a quarter century ago that the town's designers, the Miami-based team of Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, have been called in by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi to apply their principles to communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. An organization founded by the couple, the Congress for the New Urbanism, is taking the lead in making plans for rebuilding the coast.

    But for all its influence, Seaside has problems that other towns would hardly want to imitate.

    The town that in the film "The Truman Show" signified a perfect, self-contained world has to deal with an influx of tourists who have overloaded its streets with cars. It's even gotten to the point where Seaside's founder, Robert Davis, is considering valet parking.

    Plus, detractors say, Seaside has never really proved anything about how Americans want to live, because the majority of its homeowners reside in places like Mobile and Atlanta and visit only a few weeks each summer.

    In October, when many of those homeowners arrived for the annual owners' weekend - a convivial get-together and a chance to discuss issues facing the town - they were greeted by a shocking sight.

    Seaside's stately white beach pavilions overlooking the Gulf of Mexico were boarded up and festooned with "keep out" signs. Wooden stairways connecting the pavilions to beaches 40 feet below were missing.

    The damage occurred when Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Seaside in July, washing away about 10 feet of the dunes along the gulf. The damage to houses was minimal, a vindication of a master plan in which most buildings were kept hundreds of feet from the water.

    Still, Mr. Davis, Seaside's developer, who now lives much of the year in San Francisco, called the sight "a bit unnerving." He added, "We thought we had set the buildings back far enough that we had a huge dune system to absorb the shock of storms."

    Dennis left the beach far narrower than it had been, and grayer, too; much of the beach's white sand was carried off by the storm. Since the summer, two of the white-painted wooden stairways to the beach have been replaced by far less attractive metal steps that can be dismantled and stored when storms threaten the coast.

    BUT Seaside's problems aren't just aesthetic. For the first time, the loss of so much of the dunes has left houses closest to the ocean - one of which is on the market for nearly $6 million - vulnerable to erosion.

    "Something has to be done," said Mark DuPuis, a pathologist from Atlanta and a Seaside homeowner.

    But what has to be done isn't exactly clear. Adding jetties and seawalls, as some have proposed, may only lead to further beach erosion. "Everything that someone says will help, someone else believes will make things worse," Mr. DuPuis observed.

    Dave Schmit, a Georgia developer who built a house in Seaside in 2002, said: "We've got to find a way to protect our most valuable asset. These are second homes, and people go there for the beach."

    Mr. Davis said, "We're talking to some of the best scientists and coastal engineers we can find, and we'll get second or third opinions." But, he said, "There's no perfect solution."

    Owners have rallied around Mr. Davis. Jacky Barker, who has sold real estate at Seaside for 25 years, said, "People here haven't just bought into Seaside financially; they've bought into it emotionally." Owners post their names - and the punning names of their houses - on hand-lettered signs out front.

    They have been handsomely rewarded for their loyalty to Seaside. Houses that sold for $100,000 in the 1980's are now valued in the millions. The least expensive property on the market, a one-bedroom, 825-square-foot condo above a commercial building, is being offered for $825,000, about as much as a similar apartment in Manhattan. The unit is called Cork the Whine.

    Lee Crum, a commercial photographer who has been vacationing in Seaside for more than 20 years, said that he could not believe prices would continue to increase. Then again, he acknowledged, he has been saying the same thing since the 1980's, when lots were selling for $15,000. "Every year," he said, "I stand amazed."

    But there is evidence that prices have peaked. The town's official Web site, www.seasidefl.com, lists 22 houses - and two building lots - for sale. In the past, there were usually only 10 or 12 properties on the market, Ms. Barker said.

    Seaside houses command a steep premium over houses in the surrounding areas. Stephen Robbins, a sales agent at Seagrove on the Beach Realty, said that before the summer, houses in Old Seagrove, an enclave immediately east of Seaside, were selling for about $700 a square foot, and houses in Seaside for about $1,300 - practically double.

    But, he said: "There are no buyers in the area right now. Nothing is selling."

    Mr. Schmit, the Seaside homeowner, called the lack of sales activity "a knee-jerk reaction to the hurricanes." But he added, "I'm guessing that by next spring, buyers will return."

    At the same time, Seaside's rental program - a source of income for a large majority of Seaside's 350 owners - has suffered its own hurricane damage. Mr. Schmit said that there were cancellations because of the storms. The Seaside Web site now offers last-minute getaways "starting at $199 with a next-day arrival."

    Online calendars indicated that many houses are hardly booked (though winter, when northern Florida is anything but tropical, is not Seaside's high season). Still, with the beach less appealing, Mr. DuPuis said, "it's going to be harder for owners to earn the rental income they've come to expect."

    Hurricane damage is far from Seaside's only problem. In many ways, the town is struggling against its own success.

    Twenty-five years ago, Seaside occupied an otherwise deserted stretch of the Florida Panhandle (so far west it's in the Central time zone). The designers, Mr. Duany and Ms. Plater-Zyberk, didn't do anything to separate the town from the road that runs through it; after all, there was almost no traffic.

    Now thousands of people pass through Seaside every summer day. And many of them stop to visit its shops and restaurants. The result: cars are parked everywhere, and S.U.V.'s clog streets designed for bicycles and feet.

    The traffic and parking problems mean that Seaside's gulf-front homes - one of which is on the market at $5,985,000 - are stranded between a badly diminished beach on one side and, at peak times, a knot of traffic on the other. But Mr. Davis said congestion is a sign that Seaside has succeeded.
    "All of the places in the world we want to visit - New York, London, Paris, Rome - they all have parking problems."

    He added, "What we're going to have to move toward is parking management, getting people to park on the far side of town, which you can do with valet parking and better signage."

    Twenty years ago, Seaside's creators were determined to banish the auto by letting people work and shop near home. They planned to bring rich and poor together - a possibility defeated by the dizzying appreciation in real estate prices.

    "We failed miserably at maintaining affordable housing stock," Mr. Davis said. "And we have no industry to speak of, except for tourism."

    But Mr. Davis sees a bright side to the town's transitory nature: "Architects come to Seaside from all over to study town planning. They couldn't do it as effectively if we didn't have the rentals." Earlier this month, the Seaside Institute, founded by Mr. Davis, brought hundreds of planners and developers together to discuss, as the official program put it, "the principles of New Urbanism and their application in the marketplace today." Mr. Duany was a featured speaker.

    The town Mr. Duany designed at the start of his career has reached an age where preservation of buildings and landscapes is an issue. Henry F. Bissell, a Key Bank executive from Atlanta who owns a house in Seaside, said that about 18 months ago, homeowners began to notice that "the common areas, the landscaping and lighting, had started to look run-down in some areas."
    The homeowners' representatives on the town council, he said, faced the issue "head on," and "things have improved."

    Mr. Bissell said that Seaside homeowners are committed to maintaining the community - even if the $1,600 each contributed to beach renourishment last year was washed away by Dennis. Robert Davis, he said, "is as patient as any developer you'll ever find, and we give him the benefit of the doubt."

    The days when Seaside was the only game around are over. It now competes for rental income with numerous other communities in the area.
    Immediately to the west of Seaside is WaterColor, which adapted much of Seaside's aesthetic while diluting its New Urbanist principles. WaterColor covers 499 acres, to Seaside's 80. Houses at WaterColor are larger than at Seaside. They are farther apart, and most have carports.

    Seaside owners are counting on Mr. Davis to find ways to bring the first New Urbanist town into the 21st century.

    "Seaside's got competition, and it has to keep up with the Joneses," Mr. DuPuis said.

    "It would help," he added, "if we get a couple of years without bad storms."


    Copyright 2005The New York Times Company

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    Death of an American City

    New York Times
    Editorial
    December 11, 2005

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/op...11sun1.html?hp


    We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

    We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

    There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

    At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.

    The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed.

    The price tag for protection against a Category 5 hurricane, which would involve not just stronger and higher levees but also new drainage canals and environmental restoration, would very likely run to well over $32 billion. That is a lot of money. But that starting point represents just 1.2 percent of this year's estimated $2.6 trillion in federal spending, which actually overstates the case, since the cost would be spread over many years. And it is barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.

    Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

    Losing a major American city.

    "We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better," President Bush said that night in September. Our feeling, strongly, is that he was right and should keep to his word. We in New York remember well what it was like for the country to rally around our city in a desperate hour. New York survived and has flourished. New Orleans can too.

    Of course, New Orleans's local and state officials must do their part as well, and demonstrate the political and practical will to rebuild the city efficiently and responsibly. They must, as quickly as possible, produce a comprehensive plan for putting New Orleans back together. Which schools will be rebuilt and which will be absorbed? Which neighborhoods will be shored up? Where will the roads go? What about electricity and water lines? So far, local and state officials have been derelict at producing anything that comes close to a coherent plan. That is unacceptable.

    The city must rise to the occasion. But it will not have that opportunity without the levees, and only the office of the president is strong enough to goad Congress to take swift action. Only his voice is loud enough to call people home and convince them that commitments will be met.

    Maybe America does not want to rebuild New Orleans. Maybe we have decided that the deficits are too large and the money too scarce, and that it is better just to look the other way until the city withers and disappears. If that is truly the case, then it is incumbent on President Bush and Congress to admit it, and organize a real plan to help the dislocated residents resettle into new homes. The communities that opened their hearts to the Katrina refugees need to know that their short-term act of charity has turned into a permanent commitment.

    If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

    Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.



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    New Orleans Is Not Ready to Think Small, or Even Medium

    By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
    New York Times
    Dec. 11, 2005

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/we...ew/11levy.html



    Vincent Laforet for The New York Times

    Salvage Plan The question of whether to rebuild low-lying areas of New Orleans
    like the Ninth Ward has divided local and federal officials.


    NEW ORLEANS -- THREE more bodies were found here last week, hidden away in forsaken homes where mold had crawled over the walls in a Jackson Pollock splatter.

    One hundred days after the hurricane, these belated discoveries seem to be one more sign of how far New Orleans has fallen. Even the dead are not yet at peace.

    But if the listless recovery has raised doubts about whether the city can reclaim its former self anytime soon, the political culture here won't listen to them. It has become almost taboo to discuss any proposal more modest than an immediate and total rebuilding: for example, directing the money and energy toward getting less-damaged neighborhoods up and running.

    Suggest that New Orleans needs to consider repopulating only elevated areas, leaving especially flood-prone ones to lie fallow, and you will be shouted down. Gingerly point out that Hurricane Katrina was probably more than a meteorological fluke, and you will be scolded that it is un-American to bar people from returning to their homes.

    Perhaps it is unfair to say that a kind of denial has taken root. After all, the city has not shaken off its shock at the catastrophe's scope, and it is only natural that politicians and residents alike would react with ardent vows that the city's landscape, not to mention its rollicking spirit, will be made whole. "I want you all to come back, and we can work this out," Mayor C. Ray Nagin told evacuees the other day.

    Still, the city's difficulties in coming to terms with a dismal situation may at a minimum be hindering the chances of winning approval of a sweeping federal aid package, which has been bogged down for weeks. Some members of Congress are questioning whether money should be used for rebuilding neighborhoods that might be wiped out in a future hurricane. The city and state already faced credibility problems in Washington because of their reputation, deserved or not, for corruption.

    "The local administration has sort of blinders on, saying, 'Let's just charge ahead with redevelopment,' without really thinking about how to maneuver within this precarious site to minimize risk in the future," said Craig E. Colten, a professor at Louisiana State University and author of "An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans From Nature," published this year before the hurricane.

    The facts on the ground are sobering. Power and other utilities have not been restored in many places. The city government has laid off much of its work force, and nearly all the public schools remain closed. On Thursday, Tulane University, the city's largest employer, announced major budget cuts.

    It is unclear when the levees will be repaired, and it will probably take years and tens of billions of dollars to fortify them. Without assurances about the levees, many exiles do not want to move back. The longer the uncertainty lasts, the more likely it is that they will put down roots elsewhere.

    More than 75 percent of the city's population of 460,000 is gone, by some estimates, and it would appear to make little sense to spend enormous sums revitalizing areas if they are to be sparsely populated.

    Elected officials are often not candid even in the best of times, obviously, but natural disasters create their own warped politics. Leaders in New Orleans may fear that highlighting problems will worsen them. They do not want to touch off a new round of flight by spooking the people and businesses that remain. They desperately want exiles to return to bolster the tax base.

    The city could also be caught in a trap in its dealings with Congress. If it acknowledges that it must pare its ambitions, as some in Washington suggest it do, lawmakers might respond that it does not need as much aid.

    And so the city recoils at the idea of retrenchment. Soon after the flooding, Mayor Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission asked the Urban Land Institute, a prominent research group in Washington, to put together a report on the recovery. It was thought that the mayor might use the report as political cover to push through unpopular plans.

    The institute called on the city to phase in rebuilding, starting with less-damaged areas. It warned that haphazard redevelopment would lead to what it termed a jack-o'-lantern effect - patches of homes in abandoned areas - that would be ruinous.

    Some local officials and residents said the recommendation was a stake through the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly and other devastated areas. Mr. Nagin, who is facing re-election next year, all but disavowed it.

    Carl Weisbrod, who worked on the Urban Land report and led a business improvement group in Lower Manhattan before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, said, "There is always for politicians or leaders a fine line to be walked between what the reality is, and how do you mobilize public opinion."

    He added: "It's especially hard when you are putting yourself up to the approval of voters. The most votes win, not necessarily the right answer."

    Officials here and in Baton Rouge also seem reluctant to acknowledge that their image is impeding efforts to obtain aid.

    Despite the crisis, the Louisiana Legislature has refused to overhaul the local boards managing the levees, which have been criticized as inept. That fueled suspicion in Congress that state and local officials would mishandle the rebuilding, and the federal aid that goes with it.

    "There are two levels of denial going on here," said Philip Hart, a real estate executive in California who worked on the Urban Land report. "One is related to the effects of the natural disaster. The other is denying the fact that the negative perception of Louisiana and New Orleans is hindering the rebuilding process."

    One danger is that residents, already skeptical about all levels of government because of the response to the hurricane, might come to believe that politicians are not being straight with them about the fate of the city, and grow even more cynical.

    "There is a part of me that wants to trust them," said Michael Grosch, who was standing last week in his gutted home in the Lakeview neighborhood, which he wants to rebuild, though it is not far from a ruptured levee. "But I don't anymore."

    Asked, then, why he was rebuilding, he threw up his hands and said, "No one knows what is going to happen next."

    In the 1880's, Currier & Ives, the printmaking company that was the Google Maps of its day, dispatched an artist to record a panoramic vista of New Orleans. The drawing shows a thriving port city - steamboats, church spires and all - whose populace clung to the elevated areas near the Mississippi.

    There were few settlements in the flood-prone lowlands to the north. The swamps to the east were not deemed worthy of illustrating.

    It is not easy to broach the idea of such a smaller-scale city. The people here have long defied the perils of this place, whether that meant the yellow fever outbreaks of the 1800's or Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

    "New Orleans has survived for 300 years," said Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

    But for much of that time, wasn't the city settled largely on the elevated areas?

    "You are underestimating the intelligence of the people of New Orleans," Ms. Hedge-Morrell replied. "They know what they are doing."



  12. #57
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Drowned city cuts its poor adrift

    The waters have receded but the mainly black, low-income citizens of New Orleans are now the victims of rising rents, forced evictions and plans that favour the better off, reports Peter Beaumont

    Sunday December 11, 2005
    The Observer

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1664630,00.html?gusrc=rss


    Miss Mildred's piano lies where the water knocked it down three months ago, amid ruined photographs and clothes. Her favourite chair is jammed in a corner; the wooden tiles of her tiny clapboard house muddy and peeled loose. There is nothing to salvage from a thrifty, industrious life, so she has come to see her home in New Orleans' devastated Ninth Ward for one last time.

    'I don't have anything to come home to. No food, no water or electricity,' said the 74-year-old, whose family has been scattered. 'I can't afford to live in the French Quarter and there is nowhere else to rent. I have three more years on the mortgage to pay for this.' She will not sell the property, she says, but she also will not return. And Mildred W Franklin is angry. In a city where the wealthy areas are buzzing with reconstruction, her neighbourhood, one of the worst affected, is silent and ghostly. 'They want us to be disgusted. They don't want us to return.'

    She is not alone in thinking this. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans it was the city's poor - almost exclusively African Americans - who were left to fend for themselves as the city drowned in a lake of toxic sludge. Now, three months on, the same people have been abandoned once again by a reconstruction effort that seems determined to prevent them from returning. They are the victims of a devastating combination of forced evictions, a failure to reopen the city's public house projects, rent gouging and - as in the case of Mildred - a decision to write off whole neighbourhoods.

    They are victims too of a reconstruction effort that, while its funding remains stalled in Congress, and lacking proper leadership, has been left to the care of the private sector with little interest in the city's poor. As a rapacious free market has come to dominate the rebuilding of the Louisiana city, it has seen spiralling prices and the influx of property speculators keen to cash in on the disaster. The result is one of the most shocking pieces of urban planning that black and poor America has seen: reconstruction as survival of the wealthiest.

    Sitting in the back of the pick-up truck of union activist Jim Prickett, Aaron is on fire with anger. A young black man in his twenties in dreadlocks and a Veterans for Peace T-shirt, he flares out at all around him. 'My grandpa died at the airport [during the evacuation]. Now me and my mama can't get into our home. There is a notice on the door. If we try, we are looting. Do you understand how that must feel?' he shouts. 'Do you understand? I live how I can. It has jumbled me up here,' he points to his head. 'It is genocide and ethnic cleansing. It's the return of Jim Crow.'

    Aaron's anger is not unique, although a crushed sense of depression is more common. It is fuelled by the suspicion among the city's dispersed poor that what is happening is nothing short of an attempt to redraw the city's demographics and gentrify it. It is a suspicion fuelled by widely reported comments from senior administration and city officials that in the future New Orleans, which once had a population that was 65 per cent black, will no longer look that way. Alphonso Jackson, President George Bush's Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is one of those who has predicted a change in the ethnic mix of the Big Easy. 'Whether we like it or not,' he told the Houston Chronicle, 'New Orleans is not going to be 500,000 people for a long time ... New Orleans is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again.'

    Jackson is not alone in holding that view.'As a practical matter, these poor folks don't have the resources to go back to our city, just like they didn't have the resources to get out of our city,' said Joseph Canizaro, once one of the city's biggest developers and a member of New Orleans' rebuilding commission. 'So we won't get all those folks back. That's just a fact. It's not what I want, it's just a fact.'

    While some in the city are overtly racist, what is happening in New Orleans is only racist by default. The discrimination is against the poor, who once made up an unusually high percentage of the population for a US city. It just happens that the vast majority of them are African Americans.

    One who is not is Sonia Fabiola, 54, a house cleaner from Guatemala whose story is typical in a city where thousands are being evicted by private landlords keen to cash in on doubled monthly rentals after the loss of 200,000 homes to the storm. And it is being fuelled by a property boom. 'We were one of the 25 most underpriced markets in the United States,' Arthur Sterbcow, president of the region's Latter & Blum estate agents, told Reuters recently. 'We were as far away from what they called a housing bubble as you get. Now we've had three record-breaking months in a row.'

    It is a boom that has fuelled unscrupulous practices of which Sonia has been a victim. A resident in a low cost private complex in the Terrytown district, Ms Fabiola, who was evicted from her apartment last Wednesday after a struggle to remain, had been the victim of constant harassment since her return home, allegedly with the connivance of some members of the police. It is a story of pure Rachmanism. She had been threatened, had her rent cheque refused, her electricity cut off and seen her absent neighbours' flats cleared of all their possessions, while rubbish was dumped outside her door.

    But in a state with some of the poorest tenants' protection laws in the US, her fight to remain was hopeless. And that is likely to be a massive problem in a city whose rents have doubled and trebled in some instances. 'I came here from my own country to get away from corruption and this kind of behaviour,' said Ms Fabiola, 'and now I am treated like this in the United States. It is terrible. No one sees how the poor people here are being treated. I have never missed my rent in the 20 years I have lived here, and now I am being treated like this.'

    'The racial issues are real,' said Miles Granderson, an activist lawyer who grew up in New Orleans and returned after the storm to campaign on housing issues. He adds a caveat: 'It is socio-economic more than anything, but in many cases black and poor and black and criminal are seen as the same thing - consciously or subconsciously. The main issue here is housing - and it is utterly incomprehensible that we don't have large numbers of emergency trailers here, or that we haven't finished or significantly progressed in rehabilitating the areas with only modest damage, or opened more public housing units.'

    A case in point is the Iberville Project on the edge of the French Quarter, an area now bustling with out-of-state contractors spending their money in the restaurants and bars off Bourbon Street. Despite the project suffering minimal damage, like the vast majority of the city's projects its residents remain shut out. Public housing campaigners in the city believe that 3,750, or about half of the public housing units, are either ready for occupation now or can easily be made so. Yet only a few dozen have been reopened.

    The net effect is a city that is not only too expensive for its low-income families to return to, but a city that many are not sure they want to reclaim.

    And as a consequence, the longer that people are kept away the less likely they are to return. 'There is a real concern that we will lose the nation's attention the longer this takes,' Bobby Jindal, a Republican from Metairie, just west of New Orleans, recently told the New York Times. 'People are making decisions now about whether to come back. And every day that passes, it will be a little harder to get things done.'

    They are all problems that are unlikely to have been noticed by the former Presidents George Bush Snr and Bill Clinton when they came to New Orleans last week. The places that they visited were a bustle of activity, including one city worker set pointlessly to work with a tree pruner neatly clipping the branch ends of a tree.

    It was a different story just 15 minutes' drive across the city in the flood-devastated neighbourhoods of the Ninth and Lower Ninth and in the city's east. For if there is busy reconstruction work in New Orleans, it has largely been following the money to households that can afford thousands of dollars to put them right.

    On an official level there appears too to be a danger that the same assumptions are emerging. A report commissioned from the Urban Land Institute by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been equally controversial in suggesting that resources be focused on rebuilding New Orleans' less damaged neighbourhoods first - which also happen to be the wealthier ones - while studying whether it makes sense to repopulate areas that saw the worst flooding. And while Nagin has sought to calm critics by stressing that 'every section of the city will be rebuilt', the long delays in the poorest and worst-affected districts have effectively condemned vast areas of largely wooden housing to rapid disintegration.

    Which makes such men as Newell Jack doubly courageous in trying to come back. Last week he had returned to his flood-damaged house on Abundance Street in the Ninth Ward to clear the debris prior to renovation. Mr Jack is fortunate in one sense: his house, like several in his street, is made of brick.

    For those few like him who have returned and are trying to rebuild it is a massive gamble. If no one else comes back, the inheritance of their effort will be a house in a blighted ghost town.

    'I was lucky,' he says amid the acrid smell of 200lb of rotting shrimps the restaurateur was forced to abandon to Katrina. 'I was well insured. But a lot of people are going to have problems coming back. I own four chicken places. I lost two of them. Another is open and I'm working on the fourth. I can't leave what I had here. But the authorities have left it too long to come in and clear up this neighbourhood. They picked up some trash, but not much else. Now the mould has got into all the houses.'


    For all his anger at the way he feels his neighbourhood has been abandoned, Newell Jack, however, is an optimist. 'New Orleans'll come back,' he says. 'It might take a while, but it will come back.'
    The Legacy of disaster


    • Population of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina: 500,000
    • Present population: 60-70,000
    • Black population pre-Katrina: 65 per cent; post-Katrina it is predicted by the US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development to be 35-40 per cent
    • Concentration of poverty pre-Katrina: 18.4 per cent, making it the second highest concentration in a US metropolitan area. For African-Americans, the rate pre-Katrina was 35 per cent
    • Car ownership pre-Katrina: 75 per cent
    • Number of people who have applied for federal aid following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: 2.5 million
    • People in New Orleans suffering 'significant distress or dysfunction' 45 per cent; 25 per cent have an even 'higher degree of dysfunction'
    • There were 15,800 subsidised homes for poorer families before the storm. Now only a few score are occupied
    • The sum needed to rebuild homes in New Orleans: more than $20 billion
    • 114,000 buildings have been inspected - around half of those in the city. Only 28 per cent of them are deemed to be habitable
    • The number of houses now receiving electricity from New Orleans power company Entergy: 55,000 out of 190,000
    • Estimated cost of repairing damaged levees: from $4bn to more than $30bn
    Last edited by lofter1; December 11th, 2005 at 08:50 PM.

  13. #58

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    December 12, 2005
    On Gulf Coast, a Conflict Over How to Rebuild

    By ERIC LIPTON


    LONG BEACH, Miss., Dec. 11 - Standing on the slab that was once her Gulf Coast retirement home, Jocelyn Turnbough has a clear vision of her own Hurricane Katrina counterpunch: a new seaside estate, with a wraparound veranda, a sunroom and a small wading pool out front.

    Central to this rebuilding plan is Ms. Turnbough's intention to ignore a plea from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that her new home be elevated on stilts.

    "At my age, I don't want to have to go up steps," said Ms. Turnbough, 69, a retired middle school teacher. "I want to be able to walk in at ground level."

    The conflict between FEMA's request and Ms. Turnbough's desires demonstrates a broad clash here along the Gulf Coast over whether to cede large swaths of land to nature, to rebuild much as it was, or to rebuild homes, at a higher price, with more robust foundations and on structures that raise them above the ground.

    The debate is playing out on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, with a cast that includes storm victims, coastal engineers, mortgage lenders, the insurance industry, and local, state and federal government officials.
    FEMA ignited the discussion by issuing late last month a jigsaw puzzle of 228 new maps that, when pieced together, make up the entire 80 miles of Mississippi coast and reach as much as 22 miles inland. These maps represent the biggest simultaneous proposed expansion of federally defined flood zones in the history of the 37-year-old National Flood Insurance Program. The maps for the Louisiana coast will be published early next year.

    The maps for the two states, based on damage caused by Katrina and other hurricanes in the past 20 years, are advisory for now because it will take FEMA at least a year to confirm their accuracy. During this critical rebuilding period, it is up to the local governments to decide if they will honor the agency's request to adopt the more conservative and more costly standards.

    But when the maps become final, the federal agency will have the power to force the hands of local governments, since it can ban cities and their residents from the flood insurance program if they do not respect the official maps.

    "These are very hard decisions," said Todd Davison, FEMA's regional director of mitigation. "There is no denying that. The local officials have to balance the need to allow people to fix up houses that can be repaired and to take some hardship off of the crisis they are in, and at the same time not knowingly put people in harm's way."

    The looming changes are already causing divisions along the coast.
    In Mississippi, elected officials from Long Beach, Pass Christian and unincorporated sections of Hancock County have decided to allow residents to rebuild, at least for now, according to the existing flood maps. In Jackson County and communities including Waveland, D'Iberville and Bay St. Louis, local officials have agreed to add about four feet to the required minimum elevations in existing flood zones, but have declined, so far, to expand the flood zones according to FEMA's recommended boundaries.

    The biggest cities on Mississippi's coast, Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula, have not yet taken a formal position, but at least some elected leaders in these communities have made it clear they have objections. Only unincorporated Harrison County and Moss Point, a small city, have voted to adopt entirely the new FEMA standards.

    In communities that have resisted, elected officials say they fear now is the worst time to radically increase land-use standards, forcing residents who have already lost almost everything to dig deeper into their pockets to rebuild.

    "For us to hit them with an additional burden after what they have been through - to me, that is ludicrous," said Richard Notter, a Long Beach alderman and electrical engineer, who voted to reject the FEMA maps. "No one who has a heart and soul would ever vote to do that."

    Many of the homes wiped out by Hurricane Katrina were built on lots that were swept clear in 1969 when Hurricane Camille hit.

    Yet even with that knowledge, Chip McDermott, alderman at large in Pass Christian, said that in a community where only about 900 of 6,000 residents remain - and many of those are in trailers or a tent city - trying to plan now for the next catastrophe is hard.

    "Survival right now is the main thing," Mr. McDermott said. "We are not going to have a town unless we get some people back here. We are going to be a town in name only."

    Raising a new house off the ground to comply with the proposed FEMA standards would cost $2,000 to $30,000 depending on the value of the house and the type of foundation required to meet the potential flood intensity. The work could be as simple as an elevated foundation or as complex as reinforced, deep-set structural columns that would support a house entirely on tall stilts. How high the house would be off the ground would depend on its location, but the heights would be from a few feet to 20 feet, with more typical range being 8 to 14 feet, Mr. Davison said.

    For years, geologists and flood plain engineers said that the rush to

    build along the fragile coasts of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico was the brick-and-mortar version of irrational exuberance. And with the recent surge in the frequency and violence of hurricanes, the stakes have never been so devastatingly laid bare.

    More than 1,075 people have been confirmed dead in Louisiana and 230 in Mississippi, with dozens of others still missing. More than $23 billion in flood insurance claims are expected from along the Gulf Coast, from more than 200,000 property owners. The single biggest previous payout was Hurricane Ivan last year, which cost the federally backed program $1.45 billion in claims. A federal bailout of the insurance program, which is supposed to be supported by premiums, will most likely be required.

    Some engineers say the only rational solution, in some sections of the Gulf Coast, is to cede these fragile areas, and not rebuild.

    "It is time to cut our ties with the most vulnerable of our nation's coastal areas," said Robert S. Young, an associate professor of geology at Western Carolina University, in testimony last month before Congress.

    More than $1 billion in federal disaster aid will be available in Mississippi to help buy out homeowners who live in extremely flood-prone spots, elevate whole neighborhoods in some cases or rebuild schools or community centers more robustly or in safer locations. People like Ms. Turnbough who choose to rebuild soon in areas that do not comply with the new proposals will still be eligible for flood insurance if construction predates the adoption of the FEMA mandates by their local governments.

    But here along the coast, FEMA officials said, they realize they must do more. They are trying, they said, to strike a balance between protecting life and property and allowing coastal communities like Long Beach to rise again.

    "There are proven techniques for building housing in these flood-prone areas that can withstand these flood forces and significantly reduce damage," Mr. Davison said.

    The last time large flood zones along the Mississippi coast were comprehensively remapped was in the mid-1980's, at the end of a relatively quiet hurricane period, Mr. Davison said.

    With major hurricanes like Elena in 1985, Andrew in 1992, Georges in 1998, Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005, the area vulnerable to flooding in a so-called "100-year storm" is much bigger, and the projected flood depths along the coast are much deeper.

    Some local officials say that the new FEMA advisory maps call for unreasonable standards that will drive up housing prices and threaten whole neighborhoods.

    "This is not realistic. It's not practical. It is overkill, and we can start a push back," Mayor Brent Warr of Gulfport told the City Council at a workshop last week at City Hall, in Gulfport's devastated downtown.

    Mr. Warr says he recognizes that the maps will need to change to expand the flood zone. The question, he said, is by how much. FEMA's redrawn maps would put 6,233 houses and other structures in Gulfport in the flood zone, more than twice the current number. That, he said, is just too many.

    "We are going to be more conservative," Mr. Warr said in an interview. "But we have to come up with a plan that still offers an opportunity for neighborhoods to exist."

    Officials at FEMA said they recognized that Hurricane Katrina was an extraordinary storm, creating a wall of water as high as 30 feet in some communities. So the flood zones in the new FEMA maps, in certain areas, are smaller than the area inundated by water from Katrina.

    The conflict between the agency's advice and the stand taken by many of the local governments has left many residents confused.

    James Kirby lives on 39th Street in Gulfport, about a mile and a half from the coast. After a neighborhood bayou overflowed with waters forced inland by Hurricane Katrina, the floors of his small house collapsed, his brick walls cracked and everything inside was destroyed. On FEMA's proposed flood map, his neighborhood is a tiny yellow square surrounded by blue, indicating that it was flooded and will now be included in the flood zone. Residents in these areas are generally required to get flood insurance, and those outside them typically are not.

    The Gulfport City Council has not yet acted on FEMA's recommendations, and Mr. Kirby said he had not decided whether to move elsewhere, stay put and rebuild higher, or repair his home where it is.

    "It's a sad situation," Mr. Kirby, 74, said. "There are no good choices."

    If homeowners were insured for flood damage before the storm, they were eligible to get as much as $30,000 in extra assistance to comply with new, more demanding flood requirements. But like thousands of Gulf Coast residents who did not previously live in a designated flood zone, Mr. Kirby did not have flood insurance.

    In Long Beach, where Ms. Turnbough lives, little new construction is under way. The scene is postapocalyptic, with smashed cars in living rooms and household items strewn about. Yet with the many American flags placed, after the storm, at the edges of yards, as well as hand-painted signs with slogans like "We Can Do It, Y'All," there is a sense of defiance here, almost as if residents feel they must prove that they are stronger than the storm.

    Mr. Davison and other FEMA officials said future builders should take note of the few homes along the coast where property owners, prior to Hurricane Katrina, chose to build houses that were higher off the ground than required.

    One such elevated house in Pass Christian is built of concrete and stands 22 feet above sea level, compared with the current 14-foot requirement.

    "It survived," said John Plisich, a civil engineer with FEMA, as he stood outside the fortresslike house, surveying the slabs of destroyed homes surrounding it. Yet even this house, which was built by a structural engineer, was flooded by Hurricane Katrina's extraordinary surge.

    "The coastal environment is a harsh one," Mr. Plisich said, as the afternoon sky turned dark and a heavy downpour began. "People should understand that."

  14. #59
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Some of these areas have been wiped out twice in the past 40 years. It seems that stringent controls on re-building, if re-building is to take place, are necessary. Ultimately the cost of rebuilding yet again will be far higher than the costs involved in taking precautionary steps now. To expect that public money should be expended when the risks are well known is simply bad logic.
    On Gulf Coast, a Conflict Over How to Rebuild

    The conflict ... whether to cede large swaths of land to nature, to rebuild much as it was, or to rebuild homes, at a higher price, with more robust foundations and on structures that raise them above the ground.

    ... In communities that have resisted, elected officials say they fear now is the worst time to radically increase land-use standards, forcing residents who have already lost almost everything to dig deeper into their pockets to rebuild.

    "For us to hit them with an additional burden after what they have been through - to me, that is ludicrous," said Richard Notter, a Long Beach alderman and electrical engineer, who voted to reject the FEMA maps. "No one who has a heart and soul would ever vote to do that."

    Many of the homes wiped out by Hurricane Katrina were built on lots that were swept clear in 1969 when Hurricane Camille hit.

  15. #60
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    If they reject increases in building codes to prevent possible future catastrophic damages, they should then be responsible for their own rebuilding and not be covered by government aid in doing so, or having to do so in the future.


    They are in a BAD AREA. YES they lost everything, but you do not keep building straw houses in a hurricane zone and then expect someone else to help pay for a new one when it gets blown down again.

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