Powerful new piece on the New Orleans levee failures from the Center for American Progress:
Wesley Pritchard walks beside the rebuilt levee along the Industrial Canal in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Saturday, October 1, 2005. The levee was breached after both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flooded the adjacent neighborhood.
The costs of this failure to act continue to mount. Since Katrina, repairing and upgrading the levee and flood-protection systems around New Orleans has cost the federal government $14 billion, and expenditures by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for displaced residents have run upwards of $30 billion.
But for those familiar with the condition of America’s water infrastructure, Hurricane Katrina was just the most devastating example of the kinds of failures that are now neither rare nor unexpected. Every year flooding alone kills an average of 94 people and causes roughly $7.2 billion in damages nationwide, and these figures exclude the devastation inflicted by storm surges similar to those that overtook New Orleans in 2005. Over the past century we have increasingly relied on manmade structures such as dams and levees to protect us from natural disasters, and since the early 1900s we have built these structures by the thousands in almost every state.
There are currently more than 84,000 dams and approximately 100,000 total miles of levees in the United States. In addition to helping prevent floods and enabling the movement of freight up and down inland waterways, these structures are also relied upon to provide water for drinking and irrigation, to generate electricity, to help combat forest fires, and to provide recreational opportunities. They are critical components of our national economy and improve our quality of life in underappreciated ways every day. READ THE FULL ARTICLE>>