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Day 1092: Live From Rising Tide 3 – John Barry Keynote

This post will be updated until the end of the keynote speech.

Oyster is introducing John Barry, the author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood Of 1927 And How It Changed America. It is no surprise that Barry is on almost every board regarding flood control in Louisiana and up in Washington. On top of it, he has been a football coach including at the college level. Barry is up.

“What this country needs to know about this is the geological facts … The pricetag for Category 5 storm protection is a hundred billion dollars. If people know the facts, we will get the money is.” Asks us to refer to What You Need to Know About Katrina– and Don’t– Why It Makes Economic Sense to Protect and Rebuild New Orleans at his website.

Barry is now talking about the geology of this area and I am starting to tremble and sweat in glee. “The Gulf of Mexico once went all the way to Rush Limbaugh’s doorstep in Cape Girardeau, Missouri … When I think of the Mississippi River, I don’t think of a line from Minnesota to here. I think of a cone that [encompasses land from] New York to the Continental Divide. Taos, New Mexico is as much the source of the river as Minnesota.”

Now talking about the importance of the port of New Orleans. “The port of Tulsa cannot use the port of Houston. The port of Pittsburgh cannot use the port of Houston … will lose its ability to export nationally and internationally.”

“Most of the sediment in the Mississippi River comes out of the Missouri River. Half of the sediment we’ve lost is sitting behind dams in [the Dakotas]. We don’t get a damned bit of benefit from the dams in North and South Dakota.” I”d argue that the products of farming in the Dakotas is a benefit to the entire nation.

Saltwater intrusion created by canals, which the Army contends helped them gain significant advantages in World War 2 and by oil industry pipelines. “Those canals and pipelines are like taking an icepick to the ice … accelerated erosion of the land.”

Q&A Time:

Ray wants to know what the river will look like if we let it migrate like it should and does in geological time, and if the port will move to Morgan City. “Atchafalaya will become the main stream of the river but to prevent that the ACoE built the Old River control structure. The bed of the river is well below sea level and the river is 100 to 200 feet deep in places.” Talking about Baton Rouge – still don’t have an answer for where the river would be. “Almost came close to going down the Old River back in 1973. Some big event will take out the old control structure.” But, confident that oil and gas and other commerce will keep the river in its course.

KC King (I believe) wants Barry to speak about mitigating risk through elevating housing. Barry speaks about risk communication, telling the trust and community resilience. “The problem isn’t sea level, it’s proper flood protection.” (BTW, for those you who want to know, LIDAR is Light Detection and Ranging.)

Mark Folse wants to know if there were any lessons learned from 1927. Barry contends that back in 1928, they did once a map of the United States drainage basin was shown to Congress and the extent and importance of the problem became widely known. “The political problem is more difficult and complicated than the the technical problem.” The future: “Any levee system built will only encourage more development behind it.”

Mark LaFlaur wants to know how the sediment behind dams up north would be used here before it is flushed off the Continental Shelf. Barry suggest chopping off the mouth of the river (??) 30-40 miles upstream to possibly act as a catchment basin for the sediment(?) Gotta quiz him more about this because this has serious geological ramifications.

Christian Roselund wants Barry to comment on the flood of 1927 inducing the voting into office of white populist politicians by poor Southern whites. Barry wants us to read on his views in his older books – the rise of Newt Gingrich and the Republican political machine.

Alan Gutierrez asks, “Are we really up against the messages that New Orleans shouldn’t be rebuilt? And what is the simple message to go against it?” Barry says this is a classic example of what we can’t afford not to do.  We lose ports if we don’t save New Orleans.  “Those farmers in the Midwest (hey!) cannot ship grain to the world markets.  Steel cannot make it out if the port of New Orleans disappears.  The infrastructure for the oil industry disappears.”

Time to wrap this up and on to the Education Panel.  See next post.  Thanks, John Barry!  *APPLAUSE*

4 comments… add one
  • Brian Oberkirch August 23, 2008, 10:35 AM

    Maitri: thanks for blogging this in depth for those of us who can’t make it. Much appreciated.

  • joejoejoe August 23, 2008, 11:19 AM

    Thanks for the live blog Maitri. You rock.

  • Grandmère Mimi August 24, 2008, 7:26 AM

    Maitri, thanks for a terrific job of live-blogging the conference. It was good to see you and everyone else again.

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