A few days after Katrina devastated the Gulf coast some rightie lawmaker showed the usual rightie sensitivity & judgment and questioned why we should rebuild New Orleans at all. Its a reasonable question, it was just a terrible time for a leader to publicly vocalize it while tens of thousands of people were still stranded. But as the reconstruction dollars begin pouring in the time has probably come to take a long look at the issue, and CBS' 60 Minutes took the first major shot at it last Sunday. In a very poignant and sobering segment Scott Pelley (god he's terrible! Why the hell didn't they let him fade away when they deep-sixed the mid-week faux 60 Minutes?) talks to several officials and experts about the pros and cons of rebuilding this gem of a city. The pros are mostly nostalgic and emotional, the cons chilling. Professor Tim Kusky of St Louis University, an earth sciences and flood control authority, said that in 80-90 years coastal erosion will leave the Big Easy as a bowl in the Gulf, completely surrounded by sea water and a 50 foot levee system. As it is today they estimate that about one third of the city's residents don't plan to return permanently. And its a stark and painful question the ones who plan to return need to face as well (and to a lesser extent those of us who know and love this wonderful place so).
UPDATE: The blogging community (or parts of it) are claiming the entire story to be "discredited" due to speculation as to Prof. Kusky's lack of credentials to make the assertions he did in part of the piece. (The negative passion in some of the comments against 60 Minutes would make one think Bill Clinton or Michael Moore produced the piece! Some will never forgive CBS for that W piece last year) This should not distract from the central issue, can it safely be rebuilt and if so how? The gradual disappearance of the coastal wetlands buffer is fact. So is the fact that the ACOE official in charge of rebuilding the levees said it would take 10+ years to build them to withstand a cat 5 storm. The fact that an entire city has been rendered uninhabitable for the first time in U.S. history should tell these future Darwin Award winners that there may be some fire behind this smoke. CBS' response.