This week’s tropical storm Cindy is just the latest example that the New Orleans region and the entire Gulf Coast must become better at living with water rather than merely struggling to defeat it. From powerful waves breaking over the sea walls on Lakeshore Drive and in Covington to flooding caused by storm surge in Venetian Isles, Myrtle Grove and Grand Isle, we must employ what the Dutch call “inventive urbanism” to make our towns and cities more resilient.
Though President Trump suggests climate change is not a reality, residents along America’s coasts probably don’t agree. More cities and states are paying attention to the lessons from Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy. Storm surge warnings are becoming commonplace. Inland states are not exempt. Arkansas and Tennessee are also being impacted by Cindy’s fury. Last year was the warmest on record and global sea levels continue to rise.
New Orleans has been blessed with not having suffered a major hurricane in recent years. Because of significant federal funding and hard work by the Corps of Engineers and the flood protection authorities, the city is better prepared for the next big storm. Yet, the recent levee breach in Lafitte shows that weaknesses will always exist.
The Dutch strongly believe building barriers will not always provide adequate defense. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb says that “climate change is beyond ideology.” Like in New Orleans, evacuation of all citizens is not a viable option. Aboutaleb recommends learning to live with water by building a greener and more diverse environment and having incredible floodgates.
“A smart city has to have a comprehensive holistic vision beyond levees and gates,” explained Rotterdam’s climate chief Arnoud Molenaar . New ways must be found to combat climate change by utilizing waterfront properties to help the city grow and prosper.
Beginning with the 1960’s fight to prevent the all-concrete riverfront expressway, some New Orleanians have always understood the important of properly utilizing New Orleans’ riverfront properties. The linear park that runs through the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods is an excellent example of creating a people-friendly space that also serves flood protection needs.
The proposed redevelopment of the Governor Nicholls Street Wharf into a greener space will also add additional protection. Much can still be done along the riverfront uptown, in the Holy Cross neighborhood and especially in New Orleans East where the Lincoln Beach and Six Flags sites yearn for redevelopment and the jobs they will create. By investing in New Orleans East and Lower 9, the area’s distribution of wealth will be better equalized.
The Dutch have heavily invested in resilience by successfully putting in place a climate change-driven agenda which has found new greener uses for underutilized space. They have built lakes, garages, parks and plazas that not only created economic activity and increased recreational options but at the same time serve as storm reservoirs.
The Port of New Orleans is a big player in building a safer city. Under the direction of port president Brandy Christian, much can be done to rethink waterfront uses while growing our maritime-driven economy. New Orleans exists because of our unique location along the Mississippi River. The quicker we recognize that water is as a way of life that must be managed through innovative thinking, the better chance future generations will have to remain here.
WHO TURNS DOWN A MEETING WITH A U.S. PRESIDENT? CEDRIC RICHMOND DOES
Congressman Cedric Richmond’s recent decision to turn down a meeting President Trump requested with the Congressional Black Caucus – which Richmond chairs – speaks volumes about their concerns over the potential effects presidential policies will have on underserved communities.
Tuesday’s stinging congressional defeat in Georgia belies that the Democratic Party still needs a stronger message, focus and direction. Richmond and other new democratic leaders are beginning to fight back. Surely it will be a long fight.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom.