Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Passing Charade

This is my first blog. Whether I will continue, and if I do, what direction the blog will take--is considerably vague.
My present plan is simply to put down whatever is on my mind. As long as I persevere -- it will be a work in progress. bob

The Katrina Disaster: When the Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded the city of New Orleans in 1718, he chose an open pleasant low lying area. It looked promising. Needless to say, it must not have been during hurricane season. Ever since then various the state of Louisiana and the federal government have tried to protect the city by building levees, and other construction projects.

New Orleans sits below Lake Pontchatrain to the northeast, and is ten feet below the level of the Gulf of Mexicoto its south and with so much of the wetlands gone or dying that used to separated it from the water of the Gulf---for all practical purposes New Orleans is becoming a city ON the Gulf!

The wetlands south of New Orleans have historically provided a buffer for the city. This land both slowed up storms and c absorbed some of the rainfall.

Here is some information from MSNBC, September 29th 2005,Technology Correspondent, Bob Sullivan:

"Sidney Coffee, executive assistant to the governor for coastal activities, said about 1,900 square miles of wetlands have disappeared from the area since the 1930s, and the receding continues at a rate of about 24 square miles per year. The erosion has a direct impact on New Orleans' ability to absorb the blow of a storm like Katrina, she said. For every 2.7 miles of wetlands, storm surges are reduced by about one 1 foot, she said.

"We've tried and tried and tried to tell people this is real, this is happening. This is happening a little bit every day," she said. "But it's a real emergency."

Area residents can see the effects of decreased wetlands even with large thunderstorms, she said. Some area highways now flood regularly just from the day's high tide, she said.

“We've lost so much of (the wetlands), it puts cities at greater and greater risk," Coffee said.

Several factors — most human-made — have contributed to the steady decline of the delta at the bottom of the Mississippi. But most of the erosion is blamed on the levees, which faithfully steer all the water from the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. That prevents occasional flooding, keeping area residents above water most of the time. But one unforeseen consequence of the levees has been to cut off wetlands from their life force.

The regular floods served nature's purpose by feeding the delta, bringing fresh water and sediment that served to sustain life and replenish the wetlands. Without the regular flooding, the wetlands naturally “compact.”

“Simply put, when the land does not have any nutrients and fresh water it dies,” Marmillion said.

Fixing the problem will be costly and time consuming. Area citizens regularly donate old Christmas trees which are strategically placed in the marshes to help retain sediment, but the effort is largely symbolic, Coffee said.

“The entire area has to be re-plumbed,” she said. “You have to build on what you have. It's a very complex solution."

About $14 billion is needed for a variety of projects, including diverting river water and manually depositing sediment. Even still, it’ll take about 20 years to reverse the effects erosion, she said.

So far, only a tiny portion of those funds are being spent. The recent energy bill passed by Congress contains about $540 million to start anti-erosion projects. Another $2 billion, earmarked for Army Corp of Engineers projects, has been proposed as part of a water resources bill currently making its way through Congress.

“This is a very intense effort that would go on to do this,” she said. “But the costs of not doing it are far greater.”

I watched part of a PBS program that took the viewer into an area of these wetlands that have been restored through a federally funded program to their former state. This proves it can be done, but the restored area was fairly small.

To really do the job right---the state and especially the federal government is going to have to spend, perhaps, 10-15 billion dollars.

Where will the money come from for these project along the Gulf Coast, not counting the needs for education and health?

Even if you believe that we should have invaded Iraq (which I don't}--the costs of this war are tremendous.

Here is some information from a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor:

More costly than 'the war to end all wars'
By David R. Francis August 29th, 2005

"Despite the relatively small number of American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (140,000), the war effort is rapidly shaping up to be the third-most expensive war in United States history.

This conflict has already cost each American at least $850 in military and reconstruction costs since October 2001.

If the war lasts another five years, it will cost nearly $1.4 trillion, calculates Linda Bilmes, who teaches budgeting at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. That's nearly $4,745 per capita. Her estimate is thorough. She includes not only the military cost but also such things as veterans' benefits and additional interest on the federal debt.

Before the war is over, military costs may reach $500 billion, reckons Gordon Adams, an expert at George Washington University in Washington. He wonders if President Bush will make an "electoral calculation" next spring by pulling 30,000 or so troops out of Iraq before the midterm congressional elections. That would lower costs.

In terms of expenditures per soldier, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the most costly ever for the US, experts say. That's because of expensive technology and equipment, the Pentagon's heavy reliance on well-paid private contractors for some security operations, the higher pay and other inducements for an all-volunteer force, rising fuel costs, and difficulties in supplying troops in the Middle East.

Military costs run at least $6 billion per month, Mr. Adams calculates. Military estimates, he says, are based on oil costing $36 per-barrel, not the current $67. Fuel is a major bill in military operations, and the US must import much of the fuel it uses in Iraq.

Military costs are only one aspect. Spending for reconstruction and security, so far, add up to $24 billion for Iraq and $7 billion in Afghanistan, Kosiak figures. He puts the combined ongoing military and reconstruction costs at $7 billion to $8 billion per month."

This is all for now. bob