Showing posts with label coastal erosion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coastal erosion. Show all posts

Friday, February 01, 2019

'We haven't stopped.' (Lying, that is.)

Well, this is rich. It was laughable on Monday, Oct. 18, 1971, and it's a regular riot today, more than 47 years later.

Thanks to protectors of Louisiana's natural resources, like oil-and-gas stalwart Louisiana Land and Exploration Co., there's a lot less of Louisiana's natural resources to protect -- save for the saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico that's replaced the land and marsh where those oil derricks and oil-company canals once were.

Who knew that tearing up the marsh and digging expressways for saltwater intrusion weren't ecological best practices? More importantly, who cared? 

THE OBVIOUS answer to that one is "Not enough people."

It's a sad thing to live long enough to see your homeland commit suicide. But there we are.

At least we can appreciate the irony of this ad from way back when. (Insert bitter, knowing chuckle here.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Death by irony

Just in to the newsroom, this important message for all Louisianians living south of Baton Rouge.


This was made necessary by a bit of mutual exclusivity not easily grasped in a state where lots and lots of people don't even make it through high school -- a state unusually dependent on the kindness of strangers that tends to go whole-hog for politicians who just aren't all that generous. In 2010, Louisiana voters turned out whole-hog for whole-hog.

Now their congressmen are part of the charge to pauperize Uncle Sam by cutting up his credit cards, which House Republicans already had been hiding from him. All this has left the Whole-Hog State -- the one with the vanishing coastline and hurricane-ravaged city -- doing its Blanche DuBois routine to a fusillade of rotten tomatoes and tea bags.

WVUE television reports from New Orleans:
Near the heart of the city, where a cypress forest once thrived, a visitor will find only skeletal remains-- the trunks of hundreds of dead trees jutting from the water bottom like tombstones.

The central wetlands of New Orleans' lower ninth ward are dead, but only miles away the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built some of the world's most elaborate flood defenses.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Washington lavished $14 billion dollars on Greater New Orleans-- new flood walls, levees, barriers and storm gates designed to provide the city 100-year storm protection.

Four years ago, Congress also authorized $6-$8 billion in coastal restoration projects, only to leave the projects unfunded dreams on paper.

"Leaving folks in a vulnerable situation is simply not an option," said Garret Graves, Chairman of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Twice in the month of July, Congress has shot down money aimed at rebuilding Louisiana's coastline.

First, the House rejected $36 million in restoration money that had been included in President Barack Obama's original budget proposal.

Then, last Thursday, a Senate Committee debated a proposal to grant Louisiana and other coastal states 37.5% of royalties from offshore oil and gas wells in federal waters.

The plan never came up for a vote after supporters, realizing they lacked the required votes for passage, bolted the room and denied the committee a quorum.

"All we're asking for is our fair share," said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal at a gathering last week in Thibodaux, where he announced a series of small projects designed to bridge some of the funding gap.
WELL, BOBBY, the Tea Party manufactured a debt crisis, and now Washington is throwing your "fair share" into the rising waters. They can't help themselves -- it's what lunatics do, with the full support of yourself and most of your subjects constituents.

So, is Bobby Jindal
that cynical, or is he the dumbest Brown graduate ever?

Now excuse me while I explain to the Louisiana electorate that the last sentence was referencing Jindal's alma mater and not his skin color.
Natural selection, you see, is a bitch.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Casting pearls before Darwin

A week ago, some nihilist in New Orleans wrote the following on Twitter:

"Morganza stays closed, LSU might flood. Morganza opens, oyster beds might die. I know what I'd prefer. Damn, I'm mean.

As Lisa Loopner might have said three or so decades ago, "That's so funny, I forgot to laugh."

But it's Louisiana, so you know that the ability to eat fresh oysters is more important than pedestrian fare such as higher education, the economy or even survival itself -- if LSU and Baton Rouge went under the muddy waters, you know New Orleans would, too.

essay by Ivor van Heerden on the New Orleans news site, The Lens, really didn't surprise, shock, dismay or enrage me at all. And it shouldn't shock you that LSU fired van Heerden more than a year ago amid speculation it feared the professor's criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would cost the university serious federal money.

What LSU didn't see coming was the loss of
lots more state money at the hands of Louisiana politicians, who value just about everything more than higher education.

So consider the following and reflect that natural selection
isn't just a matter of evolutionary biology. It's a matter of anthropology, too.
Denied an annual dose of sedimentation, coastal wetlands are shriveling. Thousands of square miles have been lost, a problem accelerated by the oil industry as it sliced and diced the coast with canals that invite vegetation-killing salt water.

In the last 30 years there have been calls — first by academics and concerned citizens, more recently by politicians — to set the river free … well, parts of it anyway. The idea is to mimic nature and build new land or at least sustain existing land. This is achieved by cutting “diversions” in the levee walls and letting the muddy water spill out over the surrounding wetlands. An alternative is to use siphons that suck water from the river to the lower wetland side. A number of diversions and siphons have been constructed – notably those at Davis Pond, pictured on The Lens’ home page, and Caernarvon – and have been acclaimed as the beginning of the way forward.

A test run with a different purpose in mind was prompted last year when the deepwater blowout in BP’s Macondo tract threatened to invade Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and coat them with oil. Scientists contacted the Governor’s Office and pushed successfully for the continuous operation of all diversions and siphons. The concept was that the lighter fresh water would act to flush out the oily salt water, and there is ample evidence that it had an impact.

Small wonder, then, that Louisiana is begging for the billions that will be needed – from Congress, or perhaps, the eventual settlement with BP – to create vastly more diversions and siphons in a truly serious campaign to rebuild the coast.

The unusually high and dangerous spring floods of 2011 present a glorious opportunity to demonstrate not only the land-building power of re-sedimentation, but our own resolve to get serious about coastal restoration. But are the diversions and siphons wide open? They are shut tight. Why?

It seems there is another power almost as mighty as the Mississippi: the power of special interests in Louisiana politics – in this case the oyster business. It appears to be a force sufficient to scare Baton Rouge into a state of paralysis that must be causing the rest of America to question the sincerity of our lamentations about land loss and coastal erosion. Why give billions more to a state that won’t work with the coastal-restoration infrastructure already in place?

IT TOOK an asteroid to do in the dinosaurs. Apparently, all it takes to doom Louisiana is an oyster . . . and a culture that's too short-sighted and dysfunctional to survive.

Monday, August 02, 2010

They died for your sins

Never has there been a more appropriately named place than Delacroix, La.

Delacroix. De la croix.

Of the cross.

Two millennia ago, civilized society hung the Son of God on a cross and killed him due to practical concerns, as recounted in John 11:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation."
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You
know nothing,

nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish."
He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
TWO MILLENNIA LATER, modern, industrial society hung Delacroix, its people and their way of life on a modern, industrial cross and killed it due to practical concerns, as recounted in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune:
On a blustery spring day, Delacroix native Lloyd Serigne stands on the banks of Bayou Terre aux Boeufs, 30 miles south of New Orleans, talking about the village that raised him in the 1950s. Reaching into a deep well of memories, he paints an idyllic picture: A community of several hundred fishers, farmers and trappers whose homes were surrounded by a wetlands paradise of high ridges, marshes and swamps. The outside world -- unwanted, unneeded -- seemed a thousand miles away.

But the scene surrounding him only mocks that vision.

Naked slabs and raw pilings that once supported homes stand like tombstones in open, soggy ground. Bare tree trunks rise from a salt marsh that used to be a vegetable field. Battered home appliances, ice chests and derelict boats litter the bank while a high tide moves through the remains of a hardwood forest. And a steady stream of heavy equipment heads down the road to fight the invasion of BP's oil.

None of it matches memories that seem as sharp as yesterday's news.

"Really, what we had here was a paradise -- a natural paradise," Serigne, 70, says with a smile of fond remembrance. He pauses to shake his head, a gesture half of wonder, half of despair.

"But when I try to tell the young people about this, they just stare at me like I'm crazy. They just can't imagine what was here such a short time ago.

"And now it's gone. Just gone."
DELACROIX. It died for your sins -- or, more specifically, for your SUV and all your stuff. A people, a culture and a now-gone landscape have born a cross of our society's making.

And the blood of people, cultures and whole places that are no more is upon us and our children . . . and our avarice.

Monday, June 29, 2009

That sinking feeling

You know the exotic dancer in Independence Day -- the best friend of Will Smith's girlfriend?

Remember how she's convinced the aliens and their gigantic spaceships pose no threat, and how she and a hundred or so other like-minded folk in Los Angeles go up on a high-rise's roof to throw a big party, pass a good time and welcome the little green men?

Remember what happened to them?

Dat's Loosiana for you!

Because that, my friends, is the perfect metaphor for my home state. Anybody with half a brain can see that it's not benevolent forces bearing down on Planet Louisiana, and that somebody better do something quick or everybody's gonna die.

SO WHAT DO Louisiana's leaders do when the state's revenue model has blown up, the exodus of its best and brightest continues with no letup and, now, scientists say the Gulf of Mexico is going to swallow a Connecticut-sized chunk of the state and no one can stop it?


HURRICANE CHRIS -- the rapper, not some future south Louisiana apocalypse -- wants to do unspeakable things with Halle Berry when he's not serenading the Louisiana House. Meanwhile, the death ray is charging up.

Dollars to doughnuts, the Gret Stet has about as much chance against the economy, demographics and rising sea levels as Independence Day's rooftop hoochie mama had against the space aliens.

Let's look at the burgeoning Gulf of Mexico, shall we? From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Even under best-case scenarios for building massive engineering projects to restore Louisiana's dying coastline, the Mississippi River can't possibly feed enough sediment into the marshes to prevent ongoing catastrophic land loss, two Louisiana State University geologists conclude in a scientific paper being published today.

The result: The state will lose another 4,054 to 5,212 square miles of coastline by 2100 -- an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

The reason: The Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers today carry only half the sediment they did a century ago -- between 400 million and 500 million tons a year then, compared with just 205 million tons today. The rest is now captured by more than 40,000 dams and reservoirs that have been built on rivers and streams that flow into the main channels.

Yet even if those dams were to be torn down and the river's full sediment load employed in restoration efforts -- a politically impossible scenario -- it would not be enough to turn back the tide of coastal erosion, write authors Michael Blum, a former LSU geologist now working for ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. in Houston, and LSU geology professor Harry Roberts.

GET THAT? A huge chunk of the state, a chunk where hundreds of thousands of people now live, will be in the drink by the end of the century, if not sooner. And that's according to rising-ocean estimates not nearly as drastic as some.

None of this is any surprise. Scientists have been saying variations of this for years, and the Times-Picayune has been reporting on it all. For a while.

I wonder what wisdom Hurricane Chris -- or Halle Berry, for that matter -- might have for the masses as that economy-sized can of Whoop-Ass looms on the horizon?

Increased rates of sea-level rise spurred by human-induced global warming, when combined with the state's rapid rate of subsidence, or the sinking of soft soils, will inundate vast swaths of wetlands over the next century, according to the study.

The paper predicts water levels will rise between 2.6 feet and 3.9 feet along the coast by 2100.

If the researchers are right, such land loss can't be stopped, or even substantially slowed. That means the cause of "restoration," as efforts to build new wetlands and barrier islands are termed -- creating the impression that wetlands lost over the last 70 years can be reclaimed -- is a lost one.

Roberts said he recognized the paper's conclusions would be controversial.

"Louisiana is facing some really tough decisions here," he said in an interview. "You can't do this restoration all over the coast because the whole coast is not sustainable and it never has been."

AND LOUISIANA'S future "tough decisions" inevitably impact tough budgetary decisions the state faces in the here and now.

How much infrastructure money do you think the state ought to be wasting on places like Morgan City, projected to be in the deep blue sea in a few decades? Do you think Louisiana ought to be supporting a state university -- Nicholls State -- in as precarious a place as Thibodaux is going to be?

And what about New Orleans? Can it be saved? At what cost to the rest of the state?

Will the federal government pay to do it? Or will it cut bait?

Some small communities along the coast already are being abandoned. Many more towns -- and probably a few cities as well -- will be abandoned long before 2100. Where will those people go?

Who will pay for them to go?

DOES HURRICANE CHRIS have any suggestions for what hundreds of thousands of Louisianians might do for a living after the seafood and oil-and-gas industries have been devastated? Any clues about how to find those answers when the state's universities are being hammered by budget cuts that only promise to get worse?

So far, the only answer the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal had for the New Orleans newspaper was that things probably aren't as dire as the geologists' report says.

Garret Graves, an adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal on coastal issues, said that while the study's conclusions seem to him overly pessimistic, the state recognizes it will not be able to restore the state's historic coastline.

"If we can extract 80 percent or greater amounts of sediment from the river and put it in strategic places, we can be more effective in replacing land," he said.

"But we are going to have to prioritize," Graves said. "Will Louisiana look like it did in 1930? No, probably not.

"But is it possible for us to sustain a significant part of the coastal area in light of protected sea level rise and the erosion we're experiencing today?" he said, "Yes."
BECAUSE THE only thing the Gret Stet has to fear . . . is thinking negative thoughts. Surely the worst won't happen, so why think about how to deal with it?

Why try to help yourself, after all, when you can throw a crawfish boil instead? Or maybe stick your fingers in your ears and whistle a few bars of "Dixie."

And that's where we now find the Gret Stet. Atop a metaphorical L.A. (or LA) skyscraper, gazing expectantly at the spacecraft hovering above its head.

Isn't it pretty? Surely the spacemen didn't come all this way to hurt us. They've come in peace! Yeah, that's the ticket! Let's party!

Hey, what the. . . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

Living on the Death Star

Hey, Louisiana, how are you doing?

Fading fast, you say?

Yeah, I know how that goes. See, I'm from Omaha (by God) Nebraska, and we're the folks who are killing your ass. Not to mention the rest of you, too.

WE'RE THE FOLKS who brought you coastal erosion. And the Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico, which has crippled your sport- and commercial-fishing industries.

And that little unpleasantness in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina? That was us, too.

We may look like a bunch of corn-fed hicks and earnest upper-Midwestern professionals right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but that's just to disguise who we really are. To pull the wool over the eyes of the rustic likes of your own backward-ass selves.

But I'll let you in on a secret. I can do this because, frankly, you can't act on your newly acquired knowledge. You're economically stunted, abnormally poorly educated, unusually poverty-stricken and unhealthy as all get-out.

We can piss on your erstwhile largest city, and we can crap on your seafood industry with the tons and tons of chemical fertilizers we dump into the watershed to grow more corn that will go not into hungry people's stomachs but, instead, into more ethanol that will go into our SUVs' gas tanks.

Who are we? We are the Death Star.

Bye, suckas.

WE NORMALLY AREN'T so forthright about any of this. It's bad for bidness. But since your John M. Barry unfortunately
divulged our proprietary information on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times, secrecy doesn't matter anymore.

And, as I noted, what are you bunch of dumb rednecks and coonasses going to do about it, anyway?

See, here's how it works, in a nutshell, as explained by that Barry fella:

To understand the link between the High Plains and Louisiana, one has to understand the Mississippi River system -- which stretches from New York to Idaho and drains 31 states -- and the sediment load the system carries. This sediment load was so great that it changed the nation's geography. Sixty million years ago, the ocean reached north to Cape Girardeau, Mo., but as the sea level fell, the river dropped enough mud into what geologists call the Mississippi Embayment to create all the land from Cape Girardeau to the sea, a total of 35,000 square miles in seven states.

That land-building process created Louisiana's coast, along with barrier islands that provided a buffer protecting populated areas in Louisiana and part of Mississippi's coast.

Human engineering has reversed that process, causing the loss of roughly 2,000 square miles of land since World War II. If this buffer -- equivalent to the state of Delaware -- had not been destroyed, New Orleans would need little other hurricane protection.

Numerous man-made actions have caused the land loss, but the most important, yet least recognized, may be the decline of sediment in the river. Dams built to provide electricity, irrigation and flood protection in the Upper Midwest and High Plains are largely responsible for the decline; sediment level is now only 30% to 40% of the natural amount. A particular problem has been a series of dams on the upper Missouri River beginning above Bismarck, N.D., and ending above Yankton, S.D. Historically, roughly half of the total sediment load in the Mississippi River came from the upper Missouri, but the dams trapped that sediment upstream. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since the dams' construction in the 1950s, "the discharge of sediment from the upper Missouri River basin virtually was stopped."

Without this sediment, Louisiana began losing land. Other contributors to the land loss include energy production. About 30% of the nation's domestic oil and gas production comes from Louisiana, which has benefited the entire country. But the industry dredged 10,000 miles of canals through Louisiana's marsh, bringing in saltwater, which killed it. Another factor is the manipulation of sediment for shipping; this too has benefited the national economy by turning cities such as Tulsa and Pittsburgh into ports with direct access to the ocean.
IN SHORT, because of the Missouri River dams, we get cheap electricity and Omaha doesn't have to worry about catastrophic floods on the Not-So-Muddy-Anymore Mo . . . like the one we oh-so-narrowly staved off in 1952 with miles of sandbags and the blood, sweat and tears of thousands. Likewise, we get water for irrigation to grow the corn that goes in our gas tanks and to help wash that fertilizer down the watershed to the Gulf -- to kill your fish.

We also get great fishing and watersports on all those reservoirs up here, and lots of fine camping around them. Just check out the outdoors pages of our newspapers if you don't believe me. All in all, the damming of the Missouri River -- and its sediment flow -- has been a pretty good deal for us, which is why Congress authorized it during World War II.

SO . . . what has Louisiana gotten out of the deal? Besides screwed, that is.

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Sucks to be you. In, oh, so many ways.
Too bad, so sad. We're doing fine here on the Death Star, though. "Bobby JIN-dalllll . . . come to the Dark Side, Bobby Jindal!"

OK, I keed, I keed. Seriously, though . . . don't send us any of those hoardes of refugees running north when their towns start to go under the waves, one by one. We can't comprende their lingo, and they're just not that well suited for our info-tech economy, capiche?

We do like your colorful musicians and baseball fans, however. They're quaint and interesting, in an anthropological kind of way.

Well, it's late and I really must run. Every day is a busy day on the Death Star, and we're not even half done blowing your state to Kingdom Come. I can't say "See you later," because -- well -- we won't.

In that light, I'll just close by wishing you well wherever you end up -- so long as it's not here -- and will simply say . . . "So long, it's been good to know 'ya!"