Today was an easy day, in terms of deadline pressure, because I had most of my front-page stories done yesterday. I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon lately.
It turns out that these little “inside” stories I’ve been cranking out on Tuesday actually end up better (in my humble opinion at least) than the front stories that I seem to put all this thought and planning into all week.
Today’s “inside” kick-ass stories included a story about the icky conditions in our parish jail during the immediate days after Katrina – no electric, no water, no air conditioning, the heavy odor of fecal matter in the air and prisoner evacuations.
It just goes to show that the friggin Superdome and Convention Center (the MS media’s focal point of Hurricane Katrina) weren’t the only places with bad smells in the air. Or the only areas in the universe that were affected by the hurricane. Sometimes it’s comforting to know there’s a little stench right here in our own back yards.
The story also focuses on changes the sheriff has made since last season, like the installation of a deep water well to the tune of $81,000 and how he “will not” remain dependent on city of Covington’s water system, which lost all pressure after massive trees uprooted water lines all over town….
As if Candace Watkins, Covington mayor, could have somehow controlled this. I suspect that Boo-Boo’s still ticked off that she didn’t support his sheriff’s tax a few years back. It’s not always a very deep gene pool we’re dealing here in good ole St. Tammany. Political rivers run deep and trespasses are not usually easily forgotten.
But I digress.
The second story was a basic cut-and-dry announcement that the parish’s branch of League of Women Voters will be holding a forum in about a week dealing with coastal restoration.
Carlton Dufrechou, director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, will be introducing a 10-point plan aimed at restoring coast line and building hurricane protection for the area.
I was actually able to get Carlton on the phone today. And the latest figures on the loss of coastline during Katrina are grim, to say the least. I cite from my story:
Dufrechou reported that the latest tally shows that 79.2 square-miles of coastline were lost in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin alone during Hurricane Katrina.
“That’s three times the amount of coastline that the entire state loses in an entire year, gone in a single day,” Dufrechou said. “It’s hard to wrap your brain around it. We’ve never seen anything like this here and, quite frankly, I don’t know that we’ve ever seen anything like this anywhere on the planet in recorded history. It’s like we have our own Atlantis that has slipped under the sea.”
Like I said, it’s pretty grim. I was half-expecting him to use the term “biblical” in his description of coastline loss, and was mighty relieved when he didn’t. I like Carlton. I always have. He has a keen sense of right and wrong.
And furthermore, he’s one of the few individuals I know who doesn’t have his head shoved so far up the ass of a developer he can’t breathe. But that is another battle for another day.
Carlton concluded the only way we can protect ourselves is through a combination of coastal restoration, big-ass levees and..yes…floodgates..Floodgates were proposed back in the 80’s for the area near the Chef Pass and Rigolets.
But, for reasons which still remain unclear, the project went by the wayside. Part of it undoubtedly had something to do with political patronage (Doesn’t it always?), but it was also that environmentalists were convinced that said floodgates would create a dead lake.
And like the Murphy oil spill during Katrina and the massive salt water intrusion from the Gulf of Mexico, which works its way into bayous and marshes and chokes off oxygen levels, isn’t going to make for a dead lake.
The idea of having manatees and dolphins in the lake is only fun for so long. Mark my words, the good times will only last until a big-ass tiger shark, or a school of hammerheads swim in and decide to start feeding on the Sea-Do population.
But process of restoration won’t be a quick one.
Carlton estimates it will take a good 15 to 20 years for the Louisiana coast just to get to a point to where it can become fully self-sustaining once again. And that, he noted, is a modest estimate
Again, I cite my own story:
“The best we can do at this point is help mother nature restore herself,” Dufrechou said. “But the two approaches, engineered flood protection and coastal restoration, have to work together. The alternative is that New Orleans will cease to exist, it will just recede further and further into the gulf until there’s nothing left.”
Which may or may not be for the better.
Despite the wave of “It ain’t there no more” nostalgia; despite the desperate pleas for residents and businesses to come back and rebuild; despite the food, the music and the unique culture…
Despite all of this, it still really remains to be seen whether New Orleans really is an invaluable treasure or a straight-up liability; just a shit-pile that insurance companies would like to see razed entirely.
Only time will tell, I guess.
The third story, which I just found out is being converted into a front-page story, is about an all-day meeting between fire chiefs. They’re deciding whether or not they should reinstate a burn ban.
This has been an interesting phenomenon since Katrina –
On the one had we’ve had so much tree and vegetative debris, mounds of it, mountains of it, debris as long as the eyes can see…And on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve had really bad, dry-ass weather. Well give Joe-Bob, up in Folsom, a six-pack of beer and a pack of matches in his hand and guess what?
It’s got disaster written all over it.
I don’t know how many times we’ve put the burn ban into effect, re-called it ad re-instated it. I’ve honestly lost count and almost don’t even care whether it’s four times, nine times or somewhere in between.
The twist this go round tough, is that fire officials themselves are torn over whether there should be a burn ban in place or not.
There are some fire districts who say “let it burn, the woods need clearing”; it meaning woodlands that are filled with storm-killed tree debris.
Meanwhile, the fire districts near the more populate area are saying “No friggin way, it’s too close to homes. Have you utterly lost your collective minds?”
Needless to say they’ve been in meetings all day, with no clear resolution in sight. John O’Neil, parish director of Fire Services though, said fire chiefs and Parish President Kevin Davis have called in the big guns, attorneys…and that some sort of agreement should be reached by tonight or Wednesday morning.
The obvious question, I guess, is why lift the ban in the first place? We know it’s dry. We know it’s been dry. We have a day or two of heavy rains here and there though, and Bam, the ban is lifted. It makes no sense.
But then again, very little makes sense these days inside the Recovery Zone.