05 March 2006

Some New Orleans Commentary and such like

At the good lady's site at Revka's Take, I gave a few pennies of thoughts worth on this subject yet again. So here is my comment on that thread [as always names and such removed to protect others and all mis-spellings kept to show my poor typing skills]:

Disaster response starts at home and moves upwards... Mayor Nagin chose to be out of town when Katrina came around, so he tries to manage the impending disaster from afar. Did he order *anyone* to implement the city plan for such a thing? No, he did not. Approximately 300 school buses and another 150 city buses went unused in the two days leading up to landfall.

Then the Governor steps in and the day after asks, 'where are the buses?' to which no can answer. She had forgotten to follow the State disaster plan, with its POC checklist and things to do. The Governor controls the State National Guard and should have *used them*.

Then we finally get to the Federal level, in which FEMA was not properly kept in the loop by the State and the State did not provide coordinating services. And yet if you ask the survivors of the year with four hurricanes in Florida about the Katrina FEMA response, their answer is: 'Faster than they have helped us!' And *that* was under Clinton.

Blame? Enough to spread around. Cause of the problem: New Orleans is sinking and putting in $20 Billion for a Cat 5 hurricane system *now* will require it to be constantly upgraded every 5 years or so as the city continues to *sink*.

Message from planet Earth to the people of the United States: New Orleans is *sinking*.

Not only was it a disaster waiting to happen, it will *always* be a disaster waiting to happen no matter how much money you pile into protecting it. The Netherlands has *bedrock* to get to for its system, New Orleans has uncompacted silt and sand.

There are ways to spend the recovery money wisely, make the *people* of the city safe, keep the historical areas and ensure access. Unfortunately you can not do all of those while saving the city itself. I address two solutions to this: remote population center with high speed rail, or, Freedom Ships.

Are we still stuck on stupid?

And so endith my comment. Nothing really to add.

Now the good Mr. Z at Bloviating Zeppelin also had a thread on the MSM lunacy and I did have to put a penny in there. Now, in the passing the buck range I still have most of my dollar with me. So here is my first comment:

Memo from planet Earth to the People of the United States: New Orleans is sinking.

You can put in the best levee, drainage, canal, and dehumidifier systems on the planet and it will *not* stop New Orleans from sinking. No matter *what* you put in today, you will be upgrading it in 5 years. Continuously. We have come out of the 'easy' cycle of hurricanes from the '60s to the mid-90's, now we get 15 or 20 years of bad hurricanes.

Can we get off of *blame* and get onto how to wisely figure out what to do with a city that will always be a disaster area waiting to happen?

Can we *stop* finger pointing and work together to make something reasonable with the money that will be spent unwisely just trying to rebuild New Orleans? And this money is *without* a high capability hurricane resistance system.

I offer two views on how to keep the city population safe, keep the historic areas and port open, and only protect that which can be reasonably protected. We cannot do all of that, protect the outlying areas and keep that vast sinking area protected without heavy year on year cash outlays.

One way is a remote population center with controlled access roads and high speed rail. The other is to fully fund a Freedom Ship concept.

Either of those will cost less than trying to rebuild a sinking city and protect it from natural disasters. It *is* a continual natural disaster and we had best realize that *first* and deal with it.

What do you expect when the French give you a city? Perfection?

And so endith the first comment. Now Mr. Z seems to like my commentary in general and for some strange reason likes to have it! There is *no* accounting for taste. And so a bit more commentary ensued.

Mr. Z - New Orleans *is* sinking. And fingerpointing now is not going to *help*.

Left or Right, Liberal or Conservative, neither side of the political fence is addressing the PROBLEM. It is not the Executive branch or the Federal Government, it is not the State Government, it is not even the City Government... all of those are an ongoing problem, but no one... NO ONE is offering a solution to a sinking city.

If we just let the money be spent to REBUILD it, we will pay until it finally sinks into whatever will be left of the delta because we have the strange idea we know how to manage it better than the Mississippi does. *Everyone* loves New Orleans, but no one wants to figure out how to save the place.

To all those pointing fingers for blame, remember that three others point back at you and one points downwards to remind you of the final fate of everyone. While your hand is held thus, it may not grasp, it may not write and it may not perform other useful functions. Give blame where needed, but please open your hand so that it may do other things so that the Republic can live on.

New Orleans must be *saved* not *rebuilt*. Rebuilding is not *saving* unless, in that rebuilding, a better way to keep and hold all that is vital from that place is performed.Are we *still* stuck on stupid?

Left and Right?
Liberal and Conservative?

Can we not work together and *save* something?

Or have we decided that the Republic is at an end?

How many fingers point out in blame and how many back?

Give another finger if you *must* express yourself, but then open your hand to *help*.

Is that so very difficult to do?

And so endith comment two in this thread. It really does seem as if playing 'gotcha' and 'counting coup' is becoming more important than *adding* to the Republic. Then I give a quickie response to the good lady from Revka's Take.

"Ajacksonian makes the most sense here. "- [the good lady in her previous comment]

Then we are well and truly lost.

YES! Short, pithy and to the point... a rarity for me. Mark it well. Then my next comment follows, in which I express some rather intemperate feelings.

Mr Z - That was my *exact* feeling. After generations of mismanagement and diverting of funds to other projects the city of New Orleans wants federal help to pay for rebuilding, etc.?

Well, since its some of *my* tax dollars, I should at least get a bit of a say on how I would like them spent. Of course I expect that 'business as usual' will b e done and we will get another disaster waiting to happen.

Best thing that could happen is a couple of low Cat hurricanes this year to wash away some more of the delta and then a hardball, fast moving Cat 5. Then they would have no *choice* about what to do. Save what you can, rebuild safely elsewhere.

Thats why I give my ideas for something different, survivable, do-able with the funds being asked for *and* increases the safety of everything there. Some years to get done, yes. But we are in for the nasty years of hurricanes for a decade or so longer... Remember Galveston, remember the Keys in '35... THAT kind of nasty. That Keys storm had winds at 160mph... possibly higher...

Now with the barrier islands no longer a barrier and delta flooding minimized by channelization and 'flood control' New Orleans is a sitting duck this decade... Katrina just winged it... even a number of 'close calls' Cat 3s will do a lot of harm there... Thanks to the North Atlantic Change in circulation this sort of thing may be expected as a periodic norm for the next decade.

And such ends my commentary on that thread, most likely, unless something else happens there.

Now I will sometimes put commentary at Just One Minute, and there I got into a bit of a science teaching course in the middle of *much* finger pointing. Yea and verily the wind was blowing fast as the fingers doth wave! Yet, somehow, I was able to get a point across, though I still have no idea what it is... and so this post got my attention and I commented:

Now, perhaps we can all get off of being 'stuck on stupid' and concentrate on a city that is *sinking*?

I do my best to figure out ways to save those things worth saving. One way is to have a rebuilt population center connected by high-speed rail to the city and port, and let the Mississippi do as it will by opening the cut-off. The second idea is a Freedom Ship concept fully implemented. Get the population on water. And neither is *perfect*. But neither is rebuilding a *sinking city*. Truly, my tax dollars should go towards a better solution than that.

Or perhaps we will love to answer in a few years the grand question 'What did you do to save New Orleans?' Everyone who is pointing a finger *now* is no longer helping the situation. Long-term answers are needed to save New Orleans, its people, its culture and its heritage.

Before we spend billions of dollars on the equivalent of patching the Titanic's plumbing as the ship itself sinks.

Thus endith first comment on that thread. Woe betide me, I used yet another Titanic reference! Which reminds me to get back to CCC, but first more at JOM. Much more. I get *voluble*, always an ill considered thing to ask for more information from me as I usually have it somewhere in my head. FINDING it is another matter. So the next comment:

[To the gentleman pointing out why rebuilding NOLA is of my concern] - The good people of NOLA make it my affair by asking for scads of Federal Cash to rebuild. If your previous generations, dating back to the 1960's at least, cannot come up with a way to secure their city, manage it poorly, do not provide the proper precautions and defenses against nature to secure it and *then* come asking for more money to be spent just the same then I have one answer for them:


Rebuilding *just the same* is folly. The cost of putting in a hard and true flood system and storm surge system is in the 10's of Billions of Federal dollars.

Venice does not have the mighty Mississippi to contend with nor Category 5 hurricanes, it sinks peacefully and slowly and they let lower floors submerge. They do that because those lowest of buildings have a real *footing* upon the land. NOLA does *not*.

Before we spend $20B for a Cat 5 system that will, perforce, sink and need to be upgraded and maintained at some small cost, before we pour money in to rebuild outwards, and before we pay good Federal tax dollars over which are some of *mine* and *yours*, I will not pour money into a swamp to watch a *sink*. And mind you, that money will be on top of just trying to replace what was damaged and washed out.

This generation should ask of those surviving forebearers why they did *nothing* to properly prepare their city. That is the question I expect to be asked, should I be lucky enough to survive to see that day.

Save what can be saved and is of importance, keep a port open, but find a damn way to protect the people from being in a damn city that is sinking, with shrinking delta to protect it because of the fine idea of *managing* the Mississippi, and do what is necessary to ensure that we do *not* continue the folly of our parents and grandparents and forebearers back to the founding of the city by the French.

The French made a good decision for its time, but to continue on with it is folly.

I would not wish it, but the best thing to happen in the next few years is for a *real* Cat 5 to hit the city. Then saving what only can be saved as much more of the delta is lost will be the *only* option. The Atlantic Ocean has done its regular change and we are no longer getting the second stringers of hurricanes, and face a minimum decade more of same.

For the cost of *rebuilding* and *replacing* what was and then *enhancing* it, I expect a real solution to be found. If this were calm Venice or even the somewhat stormy North Sea the Dutch face, I would look at such a proposition. But this is a land of uncompacted silt and sediment, of diverted flows of a mighty river, of hurricanes washing the outer protections away so the storm surges go farther and farther up, and of total laxity and mismanagement and understanding.

Money to help the survivors? Yes.

Money to try and save NOLA as a whole? No.

The vaunted state and locals may gin up the 10s of Billions if it is their want. The Feds did not help rebuild San Francisco after its quake and fire and *it* was rebuilt. If you want my tax dollars, then expect to have to really put in the hard thought into how to get a good and long lasting solution in place, so we do not have to gin it up all over again in 1 year or 3 or 5 or 10 or 15.

I am not ungenerous, nor unkind. But I refuse to let my money fund idiocy like this without at least speaking up. If NOLA and others had proven *competent* and *honest* about protecting those that elected them, we would not be in this situation *now*. If they want *my* tax dollars, they can expect me to speak up and have my say on what I expect.

Because when I am asked 'What did you do to save New Orleans?' it is my fervent hope that the *people* of New Orleans will be safe when that happens. My answer will be that I tried to see a different path and better way that kept the vitality of the culture and its people, yet protected them from the folly of our parents and grand-parents and ensured there would always BE a New Orleans, even if the city itself disappears when it finally sinks or the delta is so gone that the soil begins to leave from under the city.

So many looking for new and bright ways to bring down the Republic. So few looking for new and bright ways to make it better for everyone.

So ended the second comment on this thread. Now, someone actually seems *interested* in this! I have such strange ideas... I am sure I am barely in this universe and mostly in dreamland most times... but when asked for more of the same... well... so the next comment:

[To the good person making reference to the information hurricane and AP] - This information hurricane is undermining their foundations and they are slowly being pushed back and in by the storm surge. It is always method #3 that gets you when you only think about 1 and 2.

New Orleans wanted the Atchafalaya cut-off so that more water would flow towards them. The effect of that and levees was to constrain the flow, increase it and allow less sediment deposition in the delta. Flooding allowed the delta to be continuously rebuilt as it subsided, without that the subsidance continues unabated and soon dry land disappears. One civil engineer said that the delta was losing square footage to water at about "a football field a day". And now that the barrier islands aren't a barrier, the *next* storm, no matter how small, will eat at the delta itself. New Orleans could be a Gulf Coast city in a decade or less... depends on the number and paths of storms. After that... it will be undermined by the Mississippi *and* storms and normal Gulf currents.

Remember all of that was done to keep the port there open... instead of dredging the Atchafalaya and building a *second* port facility near that. So, saving the port is going to kill the city in the long run.

Wake me up when the finger pointing is over and someone gets the bad news on the condition of the delta, barrier islands, wetland subsidance, and the fact New Orleans is sinking. Because all the hemming and hawing and fingerpointing and vituperation are not going to change geophysical conditions one little bit. Then, maybe, we will not leave it up to the *experts* nor those that have vested interest in certain aspects of the city without thinking about the whole environment the city is sinking into to make up new plans.

We can make a secure population center. We can save historical portions of the city. We can run a viable port. What can't be done is rebuild New Orleans up to as it *was* and then invest much, much more to try and protect it, and then maintain and refresh that as more and more of the land goes below water level.

Let the Mississippi do her job of flooding the delta and rebuilding it. Open the Atchafalaya and let the might river go as she wants. Build a second port. And get the damn population away from areas that are inundated by storm surges and floods! If we start work *soon* parts of New Orleans can be saved and preserved and possibly moved.

Ragging on MSM and its various parts and keeping them honest is fun, to an extent, but the time to start working on what to *do* is upon us. Before 10s of Billions get put into 'No Plan' Nagin Land.

So endith comment three of which it is the third in counting. Now another individual wants to know a bit more on delta loss, in which I can opine for a bit. A *real* hydrologist/civil engineer/oceanographer/estuary specialist/soil conservation expert/wetlands specialist could read chapter and verse on this. Instead I do my poor best as a trained geologist who knows a bit about siltation, saltation and other fun things to get my point across. So comment number four in the thread begins:

[To the good person asking for more information, much to their chagrin I bet]- The water is not flowing over the delta during floods and slowing during those times, which are peak sediment carrying times. Also, the levee system has constrained the Mississippi at the most vital areas so that the flow, in general, is faster and the channel does not shift. This is wonderful for NOLA, but the sediment, now thoroughly entrained, does not slow naturally as it would in a normal channel so that it filters out in the Gulf. The upshot is that the entire Gulf of Mexico slowly gets the sediment that was due in the delta.

Secondly, the old channel it is in was shifting to the Atchafalya, which was more direct and would allow a different portion of the delta to build up. If you look at the map you will see the outer delta curve up to the Atchafalaya. *That* is where the sediment needs to go during flood times, with lesser amounts in the NOLA area. The delta is a dynamic system and its geography is not fixed over time. Parts get built up and subside at different rates over time, and the Mississipppi shifts to those more direct routes to the sea. As the channel silts up, the slow flows and more sediment is deposited. Then the channel will shift to a different course that is more direct to the Gulf. So, by putting in a cut-off to constrain the Atchafalaya flow that part of the delta is not rebuilt, the water flows too quickly to lose its sediment in the delta properly and that leaves the delta near NOLA *more* vulnerable. The major slow down is when the flow of water into the Gulf finally is absorbed by the Gulf. Until that point sediment is suspended and moving with the flow, where it finally gets to the Gulf it slows down and slowly descends carried only by Gulf currents. So the delta sediment flow, by channelization for shipping, does not slow where it would as the Mississippi would fan out with deposition at the mouth. Eliminating that process, cutting the Atchafalaya and putting in flood protection does very little to allow delta build up. Here we are about 40 years after the Atchafalaya project and one Cat 5 has nearly wiped out the barrier islands. Before and after maps clearly show this, I believe it is in the Google imagery section.

[To the first two that wanted my input and suggest I give it to a site for a wider audience] - My ideas I make free for theft. Just give me attributiion is all I ever ask. I want a better *country* not limelight. If I can get just one or two people to actually *think* about a problem and address it, then I have done all I can. I cannot crusade. There are days when staying awake is a major feat and being rational is a problem. I do my damnedest to stay on-point and within the confines of this reality and, with luck, this part of space-time in the multiverse. Other days I do far less well.

The channelizing and redirection of the Atchafalaya has been a major sticking point with me from my childhood and seeing the waters of the Mississippi churning at the cutoff. An engineer, when asked, said: "If we ever have to fully open them, I doubt we can ever close it again." It serves as a FLOOD CONTROL measure!!!! So NOLA and downstream do not get FLOODED. That is the long and short of the delta problem right there.

If you wanted to do something *useful* there, stick in some turbines and generators and slow the flow and generate electricity. That would probably build up the delta too quickly, and then the Mississippi would shift again...

The long and short, steal and promulgate good ideas. Attribute to honor the original thinker, but add on your piece to it. Make my idiotic ideas *better*. I can no longer do the complete soup-to-nuts work that was so very easy not so very long ago. I can't give you the complete answer... with luck I can hand out the one small piece that will crystallize the entire solution.

Even if that original piece is expelled, it will have done its job.

So many looking to tear down, so few willing to create and think and contribute. I can do so little... and so much needs doing...

I am now rambling and intemperate. Please excuse me.

Thus comment four is ended. Any geologist worth their salt will know that saltation by particles at the bed is the way that sedimentation begins and water flow slows to allow such. Also, with a wider channel flow rate decreases and siltation increases via the saltation process. Entrainment of particles above the saltation level by continued flow amounts means decreased sedimentation. Thus sediment is kept entrained in the flow until it hits the unyielding mass called the Gulf, and even then some residual energy is kept. This can be seen during high sedimentation periods in overhead imagery. Basically the small particles do not slow at the saltation edge and tend to be carried into the waters of the Gulf. Now if I could have written that... well... a few less electrons spent. But I am, apparently, far from done on this thread, so comment five (three sir! no, FIVE) begins:

[To the good responder on what went on before in the way of projects in the NOLA area] - Agreed. I will say that USACE did what they could with the knowledge of the day. That said, they *do* follow orders.... and when the Executive gives projects to Louisiana, well... *sigh* And then there is the entire shipment part of it. One would think a real *canal* for container shipping would be a decent solution to bypass the delta and let it be... silly me!

The main problem is buck passing... and a passed buck does not get invested, somehow.

[To the good lady commenting on the quality of my verbiage] - a real hydrologist can do better than I can, or a civil engineer working on water projects and ground water problems in uncompacted sediment areas... I am just a trained geologist... a *real* hydrologist would do far better than my back of the envelope work. Modern software to model floods and sediment entrainment would show much of this, although it would probably take some hefty computer time and modeling to do so. I just try to fit the entire *system* together and see how it works as a whole when it changes. Or I *could* do that... the conscious part of my mind that worked in that area is out of commission now, so I am trusting my sub-conscious to give me a semi-accurate portrayal of the delta system, its flows, sediment entrainment, flood changes, channel movement, engineered bits and human resource use. Two years ago I could have probably done a 10 page summary, fully worked up, linked and such... today the abstract of *that* work is all I can get from my mind.

While shakey in some areas, the overall flow picture is damn clear. Look on the imagery, it will tell you.

And so it is. They should be glad that *real* earthquakes like the New Madrid one don't happen there as that would probably turn much of the delta into a slurry. Oh, my mistake. At least not frequently, then. A quick comment to the one asking for more info, so as to make this comment six or a half-dozen:

[To the good responder] - My pleasure! Wonderful to work those old sedimentation memories once again... all that yummy Stoke's Law and Reynold's Numbers and sifting and sifting and sifting and measuring and weighing and waiting and waiting and waiting for things to settle. What a way to spend a weekend! And then doing a turbidity analysis... mmmmmmmm... I am *so* glad I had an XT clone back then, couldn't do the analysis properly without it. Well, with a slide rule, yes... lovely K&E log-log decitrig from 1936....

Yup, the fine stuff should be well entrained until it gets to the Gulf, all the minor stuff up to some semi-big silt particles. Sand probably left near the mouth of the old channel, but it is not what you would call *stable*, needs the silt between the grains to stabilize it. I believe the technical term for it is: muck.

Thus the half-dozen is ended. I will publish now and get the CCC stuff a bit later, it is, of course, more of the same.

Upon review I will put in the link to Caucasianally Challenged Christian and the post. In the thread I basically copied and pasted the commentary put up on Mr. Z's site to save retyping! Heh! Saved finger time there...

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