New Orleans rebuilds in the flood plain

Washington Post:

By ones and twos, homeowners here are reinhabiting neighborhoods, even the most devastated ones, and many view their return as a triumph over adversity.

But experts involved in the rebuilding believe that the helter-skelter return of residents to this low-lying metropolis may represent another potential disaster.

After Katrina, teams of planners recommended that broad swaths of vulnerable neighborhoods be abandoned. Yet all areas of the city have at least some residents beginning to rebuild. With billions of dollars in federal relief for homeowners trickling in, more people are expected to follow.

Moreover, while new federal guidelines call for raising houses to reduce the damage of future floods, most returning homeowners do not have to comply or are finding ways around the costly requirement, according to city officials.

"It's terrifying: We're doing the same things we have in the past but expecting different results," said Robert G. Bea, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and a former New Orleans resident who served as a member of the National Science Foundation panel that studied the city's levees.

"There are areas where it doesn't make any sense to rebuild -- they got 20 feet of water in Katrina," said Tom Murphy, a former Pittsburgh mayor who served on an Urban Land Institute panel for post-Katrina planning. "In those places, nature is talking to us, and we ought to be listening. I don't think we are."

Rebuilding under sea level and expecting to be bailed out again is irresponsible. That the city is permitting it is even more irresponsible. People who build in a flood plain should not have any guarantee of flood insurance. If they cannot get insurance then the lenders will not finance the projects. If they are using grants from the federal government of this rebuilding, then there are not enough strings on those grants. Elsewhere building on the coast has required stilts as high as 20 feet. Why is New Orleans an exception?


  1. Cameron Parish is doing a good job of rebuilding. Many homes have already been rebuilt on stilts or man made hills to elevate them. Others are in the process of doing the same. But Cameron is a rural parish and the individual homeowners are wanting to rebuild and protect their homes from future flooding. I don't know what they will do about rebuilding the few apartments and motels (maybe two) that were destroyed. That would be more difficult. I suspect that Orleans parish is having that problem also. And under whose watch does public housing being rebuilt fall under?


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