Good Houston Chronicle Op-Ed about Court Decision Against Corps

There was an interesting op-ed in the Houston Chronicle today about the recent federal court decision in New Orleans against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   The authors of Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow argue against so-called “economic development” projects designed at the expense of the environment.  Good advice as the Corps considers the Trinity Toll Road:

At the center of the lawsuit is a shipping channel — the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, or “Mister Go.” New Orleans sits 120 river miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and Mister Go was intended to provide a 75-mile long channel, straight to the Gulf.

Building Mister Go was a massive effort, moving more dirt than did building the Panama Canal. Politicians called it the “key to the region’s economic future,” providing a busy outlet for commerce.

Local critics predicted that, instead, it would be an inlet for marsh-killing salt water….

Unfortunately, while the flood concerns were largely on-target, the economic claims were not. Mister Go never delivered the boon it promised. What it did deliver, with every high tide and every storm, was salt water. That killed plants in formerly healthy wetlands. Once the plants died, soil would slump into the channel, after which we taxpayers would pay to dredge it again….

In hindsight, it all seems implausible. Unfortunately, it’s not just plausible — it’s being repeated all across the country. New developments in California sit below sea level and atop fault lines. In Missouri, strip malls and industrial parks have paved over floodplains. In North Carolina, tax dollars help speculators build expensive homes on fragile barrier islands.

That’s how the Growth Machine works. Ignoring environmental warnings and promising great economic rewards, a small number of speculators push projects that usually don’t help the economy and that, in the most severe cases, can actually destroy lives, costing billions of dollars.

That’s also the real significance of the judge’s decision in New Orleans: When politicians support economic growth at the expense of the environmental systems that protect and support us, we need to know that they may be talking about a kind of growth that we probably can’t afford.

We owe it to ourselves to learn that lesson before we fall for the same empty promises again.

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Tour of Dallas’ Hurricane Katrina Evacuee Facilities

Today I visited Reunion Arena and the Dallas Convention Center, the two Dallas sites where Hurricane Katrina evacuees are being housed. After seeing other shelters being criticized in the news, I wanted to make sure that our guests from Louisiana were being well taken care of.

I have to say, I could not be more proud of our city right now. Our City Manager Mary Suhm and her staff have done an incredible job in short order, housing over 14,000 Louisiana residents. The Red Cross is running the facilities, and they, too, have imposed order onto a situation that could be very chaotic.

The federal government’s FEMA operations will begin in our city on Tuesday.

I toured the Reunion Arena and Convention Center evacuee facilities with Louisiana’s Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, his wife Cheryl, and Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Phillip Jones.

The Landrieus have been touring shelter sites around Texas and Louisiana to reach out to evacuees. They were very appreciative of the help Dallas has given.

It was clear that evacuees were happy to see a familiar face in the Lt. Governor. It was also apparent that the massive scale of this disaster has touched every corner of Louisiana. While we were at the Convention Center visiting evacuees, the Lt. Govenor ran into the former secretary of his father, Moon Landrieu, who has served as New Orleans’ mayor, among other elected positions. She will return home when it is safe to do so.

A few moments later, Mr. Landrieu’s bodyguard — a Louisiana State Trooper — found two of his cousins who evacuated Louisiana to the Dallas Convention Center. Luckily, they were all okay.

Witnessing in person the scale of the tragedy and visiting with some of the thousands of evacuees being housed in City of Dallas facilities made me proud of our response and our hospitality. Being a good neighbor in a time of crisis is a responsibility that we in Dallas — and the state of Texas — bear with grace and compassion. I have no doubt that if the roles were reversed, our good friends from Louisiana would do the same.

Dallas’ Relief Effort for Hurricane Katrina Evacuees

The City of Dallas has quickly put together a response to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. As of September 1, over 500 Katrina evacuees were being housed in Reunion Arena. Additional evacuees will be housed in the Convention Center. We are estimating that that we could receive as many as 20,000 evacuees. The City is coordinating our response with Dallas County, as well as surrounding counties, so that we can comprehensively address the issue.

The City’s Office of Emergency Management has been the nerve center coordinating the City’s response, and department heads have been meeting continuously the last few days to meet the challenges of housing and caring for the evacuees. The City met with Dallas County officials today.

In addition to the City of Dallas, other local organizations are playing key roles in responding to this crisis: Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Dallas Health Department, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Dallas Housing Authority.

DART will distribute 1000 rail and bus passes good for two weeks. The City’s Parks and Recreation Department is going to provide recreational facilities in the Arena garage. The Zoo and other city recreational facilities will be open for free to evacuees. The Library is issuing cards to evacuees and stationing the Library on Wheels at the Arena on Saturday. The Texas Workforce Commission is going to begin scheduling an on-site job counseling service at the Arena.

Residents of Dallas have shown an outpouring of support for evacuees. If you want to help, please visit the City’s website on Hurricane Katrina relief.