A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans

The Ecology of Yellow Fever in Antebellum New Orleans: Sugar, Water Control, and Urban Development
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Can't see video below? Click here. Meanwhile, though Barry has dissipated, the river remains unseasonably high as the peak of hurricane season approaches. A crest, lasting as little as a few days or as long as a couple of months, comes in the spring as rain and melting snow from the north swell the river's vast watershed.

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The river typically subsides later that season, well before hurricane season is in full bloom. The Corps has been in a flood fight on the river since last autumn, the longest such spell in its history. Each day this year has been among the highest watermarks for the river on that date since , just before the Bonnet Carre was put into operation for the first time.

It could fall another foot by the beginning of August.

Project MUSE - A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (review)

Still, that level is much higher than usual for the season. The fear that hurricane storm surge from Barry traveling atop a swollen Mississippi River could overtop levees and floodwalls in New Orleans s…. Harry Roberts, an emeritus professor of geosciences at LSU, warned that it is difficult to determine whether the threat posed by Barry will recur.

Douglas Edmonds, a professor of geological sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, said human changes to the Mississippi River also are a key factor to consider in assessing its flood risk all along its path. With storm surge from Hurricane Barry forecast to raise the Mississippi River to dangerous heights on Saturday, some observers have pointedly …. Without the raised levees, water would more likely flow out of the channel in those locations upriver, and either not make it downstream, or at least be delayed. One way of avoiding the funneling effect of higher levees, he said, would be to engineer locations upstream where the river would be allowed to spread out across its natural floodplain in areas that can absorb it or slow its movement downstream.

Katrina, in , sent a wall of water up the Mississippi that raised water levels in New Orleans nearly a dozen feet. Had any of those storms arrived when the river was at its current height, the potential for overtopping would have been significant. In New Orleans specifically, uncertainty over the exact heights of the levees makes it difficult to predict what the effects might be. The Corps, in a statement, said that because officials are still dealing with other matters related to Barry, they would not be able to provide information about specific levee heights in the New Orleans area until sometime in the coming week.

Nature Train - Amazing Views from Amtrak's "City of New Orleans"

Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers are disputing data in a Corps database that shows numerous sections of Mississippi River levees in …. First, the force of the flow from any moving body of water will somewhat counteract a surge trying to travel up it.

Tree-Poaching Is On the Rise

Considering how the city grew distant—culturally and spatially—from the river, this book argues that urban areas provide a rich source for understanding people's connections with nature, and in turn, nature's impact on human history. Salman, M. Meanwhile, inhabitants will have to raise their residences above base-flood elevation a requirement to qualify for federal flood insurance. Is nature simply something that has been here before us and, therefore, excludes human beings from the natural? This is one of a growing number of environmental histories of American cities William Cronon's history of Chicago is probably the best known , and it tells a great tale. Property values soared, tax coffers swelled, and urbanization sprawled onto lower ground toward Lake Pontchartrain. Sign in via your Institution Sign in.

Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Learn how to enable JavaScript on your browser. This engaging environmental history explores the rise, fall, and rebirth of one of the nation's most important urban public landscapes, and more significantly, the role public spaces play in shaping people's relationships with the natural world. Ari Kelman focuses on the battles fought over New Orleans's waterfront, examining the link between a river and its city and tracking the conflict between public and private control of the river.

He describes the impact of floods, disease, and changing technologies on New Orleans's interactions with the Mississippi. Human Genius, Organed with Machinery 3. The Necropolis of the South 4. A city that had been entirely above sea level into the late s, and over 95 percent in , had by fallen to about 70 percent above sea level.

Subsidence continued even as more and more people moved into subsiding areas. That year, , residents lived on former swamp, over which time they dropped into a series of topographical bowls four to seven feet below sea level. The average New Orleanian of this era perceived being below sea level as something of a local curiosity.

Then as now, most folks did not understand that this was a recent man-made accident, or that it could become hazardous. But streets increasingly buckled and buildings cracked. When Hurricane Betsy ruptured levees and flooded the bottoms of four sunken urban basins in , the curiosity became more of a crisis. Soil subsidence made frightful headlines in the s, when at least eight well-maintained houses in a suburban subdivision exploded without warning.

In some cases, gas lines broke and vapors leaked into the house, after which all it took was a flicked light switch or a lit cigarette to explode. The emergency was abated through ordinances requiring foundational pilings and flexible utility connections. But the larger problem only worsened, as gardens, streets, and parks continued to subside, and those neighborhoods that abutted surrounding water bodies had to be lined with new lateral levees and floodwalls.

The rest is topographic history, as seawater poured through the breaches and filled bowl-shaped neighborhoods with up to 12 feet of saltwater.

The origins of New Orleans

Large-scale death and catastrophic destruction resulted, in part, from New Orleans having dropped below sea level. What to do? Urban subsidence cannot be reversed. But they can reduce and possibly eliminate future sinkage by slowing the movement of runoff across the cityscape and storing as much water as possible on the surface, thus recharging the groundwater and filling those air cavities.

The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan , conceived by a local architect, David Waggonner, in dialogues with Dutch and Louisiana colleagues, lays out a vision of how such a system would work. But even if executed fully, the plan would not reverse past subsidence. To a degree, those resources arrived after Katrina, when the Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracked the design and construction of a unique-in-the-nation Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk-Reduction System.

The city cannot rely on them alone.

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The biggest and most important part of assuring a future for this region is to supplement structural solutions with nonstructural approaches. Slowing that loss requires tapping into the very feature that built this landscape, the Mississippi River, by diverting its freshwater and siphoning its sediment load onto the coastal plain, pushing back intruding saltwater and shoring up wetlands at a pace faster than the sea is rising. Only a fraction of the needed revenue is in hand.

A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans

Meanwhile, inhabitants will have to raise their residences above base-flood elevation a requirement to qualify for federal flood insurance. If finances allow, they might opt to live in the half of the metropolis that remains above sea level. Collectively, they might consider advocating for the Urban Water Plan, supporting coastal restoration efforts, and understanding the larger global drivers of sea-level rise.

They can also forswear draining any further wetlands for urban development. Let swamps and marshes instead be green with grass, blue with water, absorptive in the face of heavy rainfall, buffering in their effect on storm surges—and above sea level in their topographic elevation. When it comes to living being below sea level, New Orleanians have little choice but to adapt.

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