Who Should Pay?
The corps of engineers is hiring more scientists for projects such as Davis Pond, a signal that the fragmented parties are beginning to work better together. Bahr would like to integrate science and engineering further by requiring independent scientific review of proposed Corps projects before the state signed on--which Louisiana would need to do because Congress would require the state to share the cost of such work.�
If Congress and President George W. Bush hear a unified call for action, authorizing it would seem prudent. Restoring coastal Louisiana would protect the country's seafood and shipping industries and its oil and natural-gas supply. It would also save America's largest wetlands, a bold environmental stroke. And without action, the million people outside New Orleans would have to relocate. The other million inside the bowl would live at the bottom of a sinking crater, surrounded by ever higher walls, trapped in a terminally ill city dependent on nonstop pumping to keep it alive.
Funding the needed science and engineering would also unearth better ways to save the country's vanishing wetlands and the world's collapsing deltas. It would improve humankind's understanding of nature's long-term processes--and the stakes of interfering, even with good intentions. And it could help governments learn how to minimize damage from rising seas, as well as from violent weather, at a time when the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts more storms of greater intensity as a result of climate change.
Walter Maestri doesn't welcome that prospect. When Allison, the first tropical storm of the 2001 hurricane season, dumped five inches of rain a day on New Orleans for a week in June, it nearly maxed out the pumping system. Maestri spent his nights in a flood-proof command bunker built underground to evade storm winds; from there he dispatched police, EMTs, firefighters and National Guardsmen. It was only rain, yet it stressed the response teams. "Any significant water that comes into this city is a dangerous threat," he says. "Even though I have to plan for it, I don't even want to think about the loss of life a huge hurricane would cause."�