On Monday, as the M.A.S. and I set out from the Hamptons to ride our three ferries back to Connecticut (that would be (South Fork-Shelter Island-North Fork-New London), I grabbed the free newsletter of the environmental advocacy organization, Group for the East End from its storefront in Bridgehampton.Â On ferry ride #1, I read aloud to him from the editorial, “Growing Pains,” in which a local activist-resident warned of the risk of overdevelopment to Sag Harbor and called for
“a deliberative process conducted by both the board and the public in an atmosphere that includes a little breathing room [from speculative development].”Â
“Why, it’s a call for planning!” the M.A.S. exclaimed in mock seriousness.
True ‘dat, my handsome urban planning Swede, true ‘dat.
As I prep forÂ a trip next week to New Orleans, I’m pleased to see a similar mandate rise like a phoenix from the wreckage of the 2005 hurricane season.Â The Louisiana state legislature has just passed a resolution that considers establishing a state office of planning, per public sentiment as reflected in the state-wide planning process over the last two years.Â Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has released a “Risk and Reliability Report” comparing past and future flood risk to Orleans Parish following its repairs of the levee system (Note: modest upgrades are part of these repairs, but a levee system able to withstand a 1-in-100 flood will not be in place until 2011.Â Katrina was considered a 1-in-400 flood according to ACE calculations).Â The head of civil works for the Corps described the report as “a good tool for planning.”Â In fact, it is the only risk analysis tool of its kind made available to the public ever, giving New Orleans “‘a huge advantage’ no other city has.”Â How’s that for putting New Orleans on the cutting edge for a change!
Though it often feels like there are few recovery objectives locals can agree on, modernized, sufficient levee protection is one.Â Yet, rightfully so, federal Recovery Czar Don Powell and local residents acknowledge that New Orleanians will be taking the information available in the plan with a sizable “grain of salt.”Â (The Army Corps blew up a portion of the levees along the Lower 9th Ward to divert water from other parts of the city during the 1927 flood.)Â Powell explains, “It’s that tension…betwen trust and reality and history”Â that is the fundamental obstacle to using this new data.Â
True ‘dat, Don, true ‘dat.
Despite the earned mistrust of the Corps and all things government down in LA, there is no denying this is an important analytical tool for residents and municipalities to have to guide their recovery decisions.Â Imagine if all disaster-prone communities had similar public access to detailed risk information like this.Â I’ve no doubt the government would devise a clear and easily available system for accessing such materials, likely with snappy, appealingÂ titles like those in this report:
“Volume II. Geodetic Vertical and Water Level Datum”
and the absolute page-turner:
“Volume VI. The Performance – Interior Drainage and Pumping.”
Oh I can just see the M.A.S. and I snuggling up together tonight with a couple beers, Menino on the tube, and these excellent reading materials!
(Who am I kidding, I think the environment = BORING!Â Just like space.Â Absolute Dullsville.Â Oh, and sporting goods stores.Â Snooooze.)