Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Best case scenario: We're screwed

The question posed to these teams of engineers was, if you could have all of the money and cooperation from everyone you could ask for, how would you respond to Louisiana's coastal loss? 
The mouth of the Mississippi River should be moved north to Port Sulphur or English Turn and communities south of those points eventually will have to be abandoned if other parts of southeast Louisiana are to have a future into the next century.

Those were among the more startling recommendations proposed by the winning teams of coastal engineering and sustainability experts from around the world who took part in Changing Course, a design competition sponsored by Louisiana that kicked off in 2013.

Key features of the plans would represent dramatic departures from the state’s up-and-running Coastal Master Plan, a $50-billion 50-year vision that has received generally high praise from the scientific community. Experts said their recommended changes should be taken seriously because subsidence and sea level rise will make many existing communities indefensible in the coming decades.
Dream scenario: Cities abandoned. Land lost forever to the sea.

But, as we know, this is as much a political problem as it is an engineering problem so the way it really plays out is going to be much worse than that.  Well, for most of us, anyway.

Another flaw in the contest's design is the assumption that the problem to be solved is "How do we save what's left of the land and the communities it supports?" The actual problem being worked on and planned for is "How do we protect wealth as the land inevitably sinks away and these communities are destroyed?" That's actually being handled quite well.

Just a couple of examples I can remember noting just off the top of my head:

There was this story last year where we learned about Billy Nungesser's plans to "save" what's left of Plaquemines Parish by turning it over to chemical processors and heavy industry because that's who can make money there now.

This offshore "megaport" project is actually a scam to raise money off of EB-5 visas. But the pretense is preparing industry to continue even after the land has dissolved.

Again, that's just two things I thought of while typing this out. But the point is we aren't going to "solve" coastal loss in some grand project where we all work together to find the best outcome that preserves the general welfare.  What's actually going to happen is whatever wealth can be extracted from the area while it still exists will be. And the goal of whatever aspects of the Master Plan end up being implemented will be to facilitate future wealth extraction.  Nothing else is of any relevance.

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