October 9, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Congo Kinsasha: Global Warming: Environment: AL.com: Author Mike Tidwell says New Orleans unsafe until land loss fixed

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Congo - Kinshasa (Zaire): Special Report: Writer and Environmental Activist Congo Kinshasa RPCV Mike Tidwell: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Mike Tidwell (Congo Kinshasa) : October 9, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Congo Kinsasha: Global Warming: Environment: AL.com: Author Mike Tidwell says New Orleans unsafe until land loss fixed

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-6-135.balt.east.verizon.net - on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 10:16 am: Edit Post

Author Mike Tidwell says New Orleans unsafe until land loss fixed

Author Mike Tidwell says New Orleans unsafe until land loss fixed

"We're about to commit an act of mass homicide," said Mike Tidwell, speaking to a conference of Alabama environmental educators at Samford University. "It's going to kill thousands of people." Author Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Committee, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Congo Kinshasa.

Author Mike Tidwell says New Orleans unsafe until land loss fixed

Author says New Orleans unsafe until land loss fixed
Sunday, October 09, 2005
News staff writer

The author of a book that predicted massive hurricane-triggered flooding on the Gulf said Saturday that New Orleans should not be resettled until the Louisiana coastline has been built back up.

"We're about to commit an act of mass homicide," said Mike Tidwell, speaking to a conference of Alabama environmental educators at Samford University. "It's going to kill thousands of people."

Tidwell, author of the 2003 book "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast," said the levee system on the Mississippi River that prevents floods has also resulted in a halt to the sediment deposits that would normally build up the coast.

As a result, 50 acres of land a day on the Louisiana coast disappears underwater, he said. He learned about the phenomenon in 1999 while working on a travel story with Cajun shrimpers. He noticed cemeteries, telephone poles and forests that had gradually gone underwater.

In studying historic maps of the region, he found that the land was gradually receding because the increased building of levees prevented the floods that previously built up sediment deposits in the marsh lands and barrier islands. Entire forests, barrier islands and wetlands have simply vanished underwater, he said. That left New Orleans vulnerable and it remains unsafe in the face of future hurricanes, Tidwell said.

"We're witnessing a city that's no longer habitable," he said. "I don't think we should fix a broken window in New Orleans until we address this problem."

For years, various groups have proposed a system of controlled sediment diversion, in which canals and pipelines divert the sediment-rich river water back to areas where land needs to be built up.

The plan has mainly been opposed by oystermen who feared they would lose their oyster beds, Tidwell said. But that has happened anyway with Hurricane Katrina, which killed out the oyster beds by covering them with several feet of silt, he said.

In his book, Tidwell predicted that it would take a category 4 or 5 hurricane to cause a crisis that would prompt restoring the coast.

Instead, federal resources are going to rebuild and resettle the area without addressing the root problem that makes Louisiana's coast so vulnerable, he said.

"When you levee the river, all the sediment barrels out the mouth onto the ocean floor and there is no land build-up, but we still get land subsidence; we still get sinking land," he said.

It would cost about $14 billion to fund the Coast 2050 sediment diversion plan that would build back the barrier islands and protect Louisiana from hurricane storm surges, he said.

"The federal government has refused to fund this plan," he said. "All the focus is on the levees. Those are the symptoms. The disease is land loss."

Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, spoke Saturday at the fall conference of the Alabama Environmental Educators Consortium, a group of college teachers. He recommended the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana in Baton Rouge, and its Web site, www.crcl.org, for further information on what he called the nation's greatest environmental calamity.

"It's a human-caused problem," Tidwell said. "We obliterated the natural hydrology of south Louisiana."

E-mail: ggarrison@bhamnews.com

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Story Source: AL.com

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