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Unstoppable Erosion in Lousiana
We’ve been inundated with images of Katrina’s wrath. Flooded streets with floating bodies drifting through poor New Orleans neighborhoods, burning buildings and the bald spot on the Superdome’s roof. Yet, the wetlands that buffer New Orleans from the Gulf have been missing from photo spreads. But the damage is immense. That one storm is estimated to have caused 50 years worth of erosion, according to a new report. And the waterways have been widened by a third...And the Gulf coast has moved inland up to a quarter mile in places...Surprisingly, though, the fishing has been great. Many locals that still have a house and a boat are reporting some of the best runs of red drum in years. This could be because the new underwater topography is better suited for holding bait and thus game fish. Large sloughs and deep channels were cut by Katrina's storm surge.
While fish are temporarily thriving, other fauna isn't faring so well. Aquatic mammals, including otters, have disappeared according to local witnesses. And it's yet to be seen if the millions of ducks that winter in the bayou will return this year.
What bothers me, above all the damage and suffering, is that the Corps of Engineers seems deadset on rebuilding the levee system. Almost every report published traces the decline of the Louisiana wetlands south of New Orleans to the levees that cut vegetation off from fresh water. The nutrient-rich soil is getting polluted with an influx of saltwater, whose effects are made even more dramatic by a hurricane. Is it time to make a Venice out of the Crescent City by letting the floodwaters in?