First Draft has been following the ongoing tragedy in the Gulf Coast since Katrina hit over a year and a half ago. Scout Prime has been the point person recording the words and images that lay out the human cost of the storm, the disastrous BushCo response and the wildly botched reconstruction efforts. After a while fatique sets in and even if we had a media that paid attention to stuff like this, it would still be easy to ignore even the most outrageous stories of suffering and corruption and incompetence. But here's a story, actually a three-part series from the Times-Picayune, that we can't ignore.
In short: Thanks to insane mismanagement of the ecology of the Gulf Coast, it is dying and we're all going to pay the cost of the funeral.
In 10 years, at current land-loss rates:
-- Gulf waves that once ended on barrier island beaches far from the city could be crashing on levees behind suburban lawns.
-- The state will be forced to begin abandoning outlying communities such as Lafitte, Golden Meadow, Cocodrie, Montegut, Leeville, Grand Isle and Port Fourchon.
-- The infrastructure serving a vital portion of the nation's domestic energy production will be exposed to the encroaching Gulf.
-- Many levees built to withstand a few hours of storm surge will be standing in water 24 hours a day -- and facing the monster surges that come with tropical storms.
-- Hurricanes approaching from the south will treat the city like beachfront property, crushing it with forces like those experienced by the Mississippi Gulf Coast during Katrina.
The entire nation would reel from the losses. The state's coastal wetlands, the largest in the continental United States, nourish huge industries that serve all Americans, not just residents of southeastern Louisiana. Twenty-seven percent of America's oil and 30 percent of its gas travels through the state's coast, serving half of the nation's refinery capacity, an infrastructure that few other states would welcome and that would take years to relocate. Ports along the Mississippi River, including the giant Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana in LaPlace, handle 56 percent of the nation's grain shipments. And the estuaries now rapidly turning to open water produce half of the nation's wild shrimp crop and about a third of its oysters and blue claw crabs. Studies show destruction of the wetlands protecting the infrastructure serving those industries would put $103 billion in assets at risk.
Despite such dire threats, the most disturbing concern may be this: Coastal restoration efforts have been under way for two decades, but not a single project capable of reversing the trend currently awaits approval.
The modest restoration efforts already under way have no chance of making a serious impact, experts say.
"It's like putting makeup on a corpse," said Mark Schexnayder, a regional coastal adviser with LSU's Sea Grant College Program who has spent 20 years involved in coastal restoration.
As Ayn Coulter at the American Street wrote,
It would be a worthwhile investment to spend everything now being spent on Operation Inigo Montoya just to shore up and rebuild the coastline and marshlands as barriers for the future. They will be needed, whether the oceans rise or not, because the ground is sinking there from all the drilling, and those wells which no politician is going to shut down because of the price of gas will all be converted unwillingly into offshore platforms if nothing is done.
You don’t care about the people? All right — look at the balance sheet. Do it for the almighty dollar.
Whoever runs for any federal office in 2008 better have a brilliant plan for addressing this nightmare but count on that not being the case unless we force them to think of one.