Katrina's Aftermath, From A First Hand Witness | Main | Open Thread for Morons
September 09, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans: Raise the Grade?

I'm not an engineer or a city planner. I don't even play one on TV.

But it seems to me that New Orleans will be rebuilt, and at tremendous expense. Bush is so compromised at this point on the issue (rightly or wrongly) that it's doubtful much will be spared to rebuild the city.

If one is going to rebuild, however, perhaps we should rebuild it right.

Again, I have no idea if this is economically or technologically feasible. But...

Okay, what is perceived as ground level in New York City is no such thing. Street level is not ground level. So many channels and basements and subway tubes and power-line conduits have been cut into New York City that the city is essentially a dry-land Venice, sitting on massive piles, elevated above true "ground level," which is 15, 30, or even 40 feet below street level.

Boston's Big Dig was a massive and massively-costly effort to dig beneath an existing city. A lot of that additional cost was incurred due local politicians' absolute determination that residents would be barely troubled at all by the incredible engineering efforts going on all around them. Digging was done at night... and city engineers closely monitored the workers to make sure they weren't violating acceptable noise limits.

In New Orleans, much of the below-sea-level part of the city has been destroyed. I doubt that many of those structures can be saved. Most houses cannot sit in ten to twenty foot high water for a week and a half and remain structurally sound. So most everything in the floodplain will have to be razed to the ground before rebuilding can begin.

If you're going to raze to the ground anyway, why not take the time to then raise the ground?

I have no idea if it would be cheaper to simply build up the city's new "ground level" by putting massive piles down to bedrock and building 12 or 15 feet above the true ground level, or attempting to dump enough earth into the bowl to raise it up. (I know Boston's done an awful lot of that.)

I don't know what the cost would be. Not a clue. Someone smart like Stephen den Beste might come in here and tell me that such a massive engineering project would be too expensive to even consider.

But if it's not prohibitively expensive (and note, the Japanese will occasionally just build an entire artificial island when they think they need more land), why not?

If something like that were to be done, it would be cheapest to do it now, now that we're essentially building from the ground up again anyway.

If the city's going to be fixed -- and I think it will be -- why not spend the extra money to fix it properly rather than continue with the rubber-band-and-duct-tape solution of levees and pumps? We'll just be back to this same problem in 50 years -- or maybe even 10, given the current high-water (sorry) mark of powerful hurricanes we're suffering through -- if we try that.


An Even Better Idea Update: Dem 9/11 commissioner says: Put Jimmy Carter in charge!

I don't know... last time he was in a boat, didn't he get attacked by a rabbit or something?



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posted by Ace at 04:38 PM

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