Repairing and maintaining our levees

I was reading an article about the hurricane disaster in New Orleans when I came across the following quote:

“New Orleans, which lies below sea level, has 350 miles of hurricane levees built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, according to the Corps of Engineers. The Category 4 Hurricane Katrina caused two levee collapses”

People need to realize that when things are designed for a certain set of parameters (like what category hurricane they’re designed to withstand) we can’t fault those things when they fail when pushed beyond those limits.

What really is to blame in this case is the failure to build levees designed for a higher category hurricane. I mean it’s just nuts to not pump the needed money into proper storm protections when there are so many lives and so much property behind those levees. I can understand not building really expensive levees when all that is being protected is 8 houses and 1000 acres of farm land. For those resources it is reasonable to have a levee breach every 50 to 100 years. But the ENTIRE city of New Orleans is behind those levees. Those levees should be built to withstand category 5 (isn’t that the highest level?) hurricanes. Sure New Orleans only gets hit with one of those every few hundred years (I’m just guessing), but the fact is that every few hundred years it happens.

And it makes sense from a purely financial perspective. I’m sure the relief effort in this case is going to cost several billions of dollars. I’m also sure that the cost difference for building and maintaining those larger levees can’t be 100 million (earth fill levees are surprisingly cheap). In the long run you’ll save a fortune by spending the money up front to protect the town.

Hell, just the human life lost justifies spending the money, even if you take a cold finacial perspective of it. A human life is worth several million dollars according to the courts and all the wrongful death suits that have been decided in the last couple decades (airplane crashes, OJ Simpson, etc.). So if you lose 50 lives from a hurricane because the levy broke, you’ll easily have justified the building expenses.

The worst part of what I’m writing is that when they patch up the levees, they’ll just restore them to what they were like before. Despite the fact that they’ll have just witnessed why better levees are vitally important for a town like New Orleans, they’ll be quick to forget and be a sitting duck for the next category 4+ hurricane that comes there way.

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