PANEL 2 : REGIONAL & URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE SOLUTIONS :
Urban Planning Options for New Orleans and other At-Risk Cities
Historically, the deltaic plain upon which New Orleans exists "remained at or above sea level.” In the 20th Century, the city's new municipal drainage system, thought to be the height of engineering innovation, removed water from the city's foundation of sand, silt and clay and initiated the problem of land subsidence. Today, many of these parts of New Orleans are 2-3 meters below sea level. Confronting the city’s footprint, water storage, house relocation, and amphibian houses are the ambitious and radical plans that the city needs to survive.
- Richard Campanella
Resilience is "the property of a material to rebound after having absorbed some energy." The way a city rebounds from energy displacement, caused by catastrophes like Katrina, defines its resiliency. Currently, the city responds to catastrophe by relying on evacuating the entire population - a completely unsustainable approach. Whereas the City has recently produced a master plan focusing on the neighborhood scale, planning for and establishing resiliency within Orleans Parish requires going beyond the urban scale to address the regional responsibilities of levy protection and coastal restoration. - Ray Manning
The Old River Control Structure, controlling water and sediment flow of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers, affects the topography and hydrology foundational to the safety and existence of the City of New Orleans. Despite this, the City has no regulatory or political influence over this structure's management. A resilient city must plan from the bottom up by prioritizing the "security of the landscape," the ground and water, before looking at infrastructure and, lastly, human society. Another problem of urban and regional scale that clashes with current political and planning structures is that hydrological units and problems do not align within and amongst Parish boundary lines drawn centuries ago by political rulers. - David Waggonner
In order to implement foreign innovative solutions, technical information is required to identify how to best transport the solutions to our regional ecosystems, soil and hydrology. Strategies for resiliency are needed urgently that work within the City's existing political and financial situation. To address localized flooding situations, we must design and work across professions while keeping in mind the psychology of the City's individuals as homeowners, non-profits, government agencies with limited budgets. - Prisca Weems
Historically, New Orleans has had a high level of flood protection provided by the productivity of the region's wetlands and elevated housing design. During the 20th Century, the City has entered its current "crisis of vulnerability.” Now, the region must implement the multiple lines of defense strategy. The City's resilience to storm surge and flooding catastrophes, within which includes structural protection from levees, depends upon the health of coastal hydrology and habitats. Acting as a barrier system, the coastline is able to absorb a storm surge before it even reaches the City's structural protection system. - John Lopez
In the Netherlands, the levels of protection provided by the primary flood defense system of levees are extremely high: one in 10,000 years for the western half of the country. However, the ideals for prevention that incorporates levees, dykes, spatial planning and emergency management are compromised by budget limitations. The discussion to build 50,000 new homes in Almere, one of the lowest parts of the Netherlands, outlines a conflict between the high risk of damage and loss of life and the government's rejection of raised, floodproofed and amphibian homes due to lack of investment feasibility. Developing on the coast of the Hague, outside of existing levees, presents an opportunity to simultaneously develop flood defense and land use. Jonkman suggests using the tops of levees as places for development, which is not currently considered an option here in the United States.
- Bas Jonkman