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NU Hurricane Katrian Seminar 2008

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Rebuilding Greater New Orleans: Problems & Opportunities

Rebuilding Greater New Orleans: Problems & Opportunities


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  • 1. Rebuilding Greater New Orleans: Problems & Opportunities Hurricane Katrina Report School of Continuing Studies Infrastructure Technology Institute Northwestern University Evanston, IL David R. Donohue October,2008
  • 2. Problems
    • Dysfunctional government
    • Below-sea-level topography
    • Hurricane/flood susceptibility
    • Destroyed neighborhoods
    • National coastal vulnerability
    • Infrastructure dependence
  • 3. Problem #1: Dysfunctional Government
    • Local-state-federal relationship broken
    • History teaches importance of governance
  • 4.
    • Chicago 1871
    Cities Destroyed & Rebuilt Cities Destroyed & Rebuilt
  • 5.
    • Galveston 1900
    Cities Destroyed & Rebuilt
  • 6.
    • Warsaw 1945
    Cities Destroyed & Rebuilt
  • 7.
    • Tangshan 1976
    Cities Destroyed & Rebuilt
  • 8. Cities Destroyed & Rebuilt
    • Bottom line for rebuilding :
    • Politics, culture, economics much more important than engineering, architecture, urban planning
  • 9. Opportunity: Craft Functional Governance
    • Reconstruction
      • Local-state-federal partnership
      • Federal leader ala Coolidge/Hoover?
      • Inclusive public involvement
    • Long-term
      • Rethink local-state-fed disaster-response relationship
  • 10. Problem #2: Below Sea Level Topography
    • The “bathtub”
    • Subsiding alluvial soil
    • Ever-higher levees
    • Sub-standard government construction
  • 11.  
  • 12. Opportunity: Raise the Grade
    • Chicago 1950’s
  • 13. Opportunity: Raise the Grade
    • Galveston 1900’s
  • 14. Opportunity: Raise the Grade
    • Problems
      • Compressive soils
      • Environmental impact
      • Financial/political feasibility
    • Deserves a look
  • 15. Problem #3: Hurricane/Flood Susceptibility
    • NOLA does not drain naturally
    • Requires protection
      • Levees
      • Pumps
      • Surge protection?
      • Rebuild coastal barrier islands
  • 16. Opportunity: Protection Megaproject Netherlands Delta Works
  • 17. Comprehensive Hurricane/Flood Protection Works Levees & Pumps Coastal/Wetland Protection/ Restoration Surge Protection?
  • 18. Problem #4: Destroyed Neighborhoods
    • Many neighborhoods relatively undamaged
      • French Quarter
      • Downtown
      • Uptown
      • Garden District
    • Others completely destroyed
      • Wood buildings wrecked by immersion
      • Utilities compromised
  • 19. Opportunity: Rebuild from Scratch, Better
    • Not just physical, but economic
      • Design for opportunity
        • Short-term
        • Long-term
    • Rebuild 287-year-old city to 21st century standards
      • Modern materials/codes
      • New/rebuilt infrastructure
      • Fiber to each home? Wireless broadband?
  • 20. Problem #5: National Coastal Hurricane Vulnerability
    • 39 million people live in coastal counties from Corpus Christi to Cape Cod
      • Growing faster than nation: 5.4% vs. 4.3% 2000-2004
    • Other estimates: 65 million “hurricane vulnerable”
    • Erosion threatens 70% of nation’s coastline
      • FEMA estimates up to 25% of homes within 500 feet could be lost to erosion by 2060
  • 21. Opportunity: Rethink Coastal Land Use, Protection, Disaster Response
    • Should federal government subsidize unwise coastal land use decisions?
    • What about development in areas prone to earthquakes, floods, tornados?
    • Man-made vs. “natural” protection
    • Katrina disaster-response lessons
  • 22. Problem #6: Infrastructure Dependence
    • Katrina dramatized societal dependence on infrastructure
  • 23. Opportunity: Renewed Awareness of & Investment in Infrastructure
    • US not investing enough in infrastructure
    • Projects take too long, cost too much
    • Hurting economic competitiveness & quality of life
    2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure Aviation D+ Bridges C Dams D Drinking Water D- Energy D Navigable Waterways D- Public Parks & Recreation C- Rail C- Roads D Schools D Security I Solid Waste C+ Transit D+ Wastewater D- US Infrastructure GPA D Source: ASCE
  • 24. Huge Problems, Tremendous Opportunities
    • 1. Dysfunctional governments
    • Functional governance
    • 2. Below sea level topography
    • Raise grades
    • 3. Hurricane/flood susceptibility
    • Comprehensive protection
    • 4. Destroyed neighborhoods
    • Rebuilt & reborn
    • 5. National coastal vulnerability
    • Development policy
    • 6. Infrastructure dependence
    • Appreciation/investment
  • 25. Our Success Rebuilding NOLA Will, to a Great Extent, Determine Our Civilization’s Ability to Succeed in the 21 st Century