Our Vulnerable Coastal City in Historical Context

By David Muth, Director, Gulf Restoration Program, National Wildlife Federation

To make that watery landscape surrounding the Mississippi river suitable for a traditional Old World settlement, with towns and farms and ports, the river had to be tamed by levees, canals, distributary closures, and navigation improvements. Humanity succeeded in taming that landscape, but in the process set in motion its demise by depriving a naturally sinking delta of new sediment. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated our increasing vulnerability. The challenge ahead is to design projects that reduce that vulnerability, and the challenge is to try to make New Orleans viable in the decades ahead.

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