New Orleans: A Green Genocide  
By Michael Tremoglie | September 8, 2005

As radical environmentalists continue to blame the ferocity of 
Hurricane Katrina's devastation on President Bush's ecological 
policies, a mainstream Louisiana media outlet inadvertently 
disclosed a shocking fact: Environmentalist activists were 
responsible for spiking a plan that may have saved New Orleans. 
Decades ago, the Green Left – pursuing its agenda of valuing 
wetlands and topographical "diversity" over human life – sued to 
prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from building floodgates that 
would have prevented significant flooding that resulted from 
Hurricane Katrina. 

In the 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Lake Pontchartrain 
and Vicinity Hurricane Barrier Project planned to build 
fortifications at two strategic locations, which would keep massive 
storms on the Gulf of Mexico from causing Lake Pontchartrain to 
flood the city. An article in the May 28, 2005, New Orleans Times-
Picayune stated, "Under the original plan, floodgate-type structures 
would have been built at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur passes to 
block storm surges from moving from the Gulf into Lake 


"The floodgates would have blocked the flow of water from the Gulf 
of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, through the Rigolets [and Chef 
Mentuer] into Lake Pontchartrain," declared Professor Gregory Stone, 
the James P. Morgan Distinguished Professor and Director of the 
Coastal Studies Institute of Louisiana State University. "This would 
likely have reduced storm surge coming from the Gulf and into the 
Lake Pontchartrain," Professor Stone told Michael P. Tremoglie 
during an interview on September 6. The professor concluded, "[T]
hese floodgates would have alleviated the flooding of New Orleans 
caused by Hurricane Katrina."


The New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers and Professor Stone were not 
the only people cognizant of the consequences that could and did 
result because of the environmental activists. While speaking with 
Sean Hannity on his radio show on Labor Day, former Louisiana 
Congressman and Speaker of the House Bob Livingston also referred to 
environmentalists whose litigation prevented hurricane prevention 


In other words, unlike other programs – including the ones leftists 
like Sid Blumenthal excoriated the president for not funding – these 
constructions might have prevented the loss of life experienced in 
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Why was this project aborted? As the Times-Picayune wrote, "Those 
plans were abandoned after environmental advocates successfully sued 
to stop the projects as too damaging to the wetlands and the lake's 
eco-system." (Emphasis added.) Specifically, in 1977, a state 
environmentalist group known as Save Our Wetlands (SOWL) sued to 
have it stopped. SOWL stated the proposed Rigolets and Chef Menteur 
floodgates of the Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Prevention Project 
would have a negative effect on the area surrounding Lake 
Pontchartrain. Further, SOWL's recollection of this case 
demonstrates they considered this move the first step in a 
perfidious design to drain Lake Pontchartrain entirely and open the 
area to dreaded capitalist investment. 


On December 30, 1977, U.S. District Judge Charles Schwartz Jr. 
issued an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake 
Pontchartrain hurricane protection project, demanding the engineers 
draw up a second environmental impact statement, three years after 
the corps submitted the first one. In one of the most ironic 
pronouncements of all time, Judge Schwartz wrote, "it is the opinion 
of the Court that plaintiffs herein have demonstrated that they, and 
in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the 
barrier project based upon the August, 1974 FEIS [federal 
environmental impact statement] is allowed to continue." 


If the Greens prevailed, it was not because the forces of common 
sense did not make a compelling case. SOWL's account reveals that 
during the course of the trial the defense counsel, Gerald 
Gallinghouse – a Republican U.S. Attorney who acted as a special 
prosecutor during the Carter administration – felt so strongly that 
the project should continue that he told the judge he would "go 
before the United States Congress with [Democratic Louisiana 
Congressman] F. Edward Hebert to pass a resolution, exempting the 
Hurricane Barrier Project from the rules and regulations of the 
National Environmental Policy Act because, in his opinion, [this 
plan] is necessary to protect the citizens of New Orleans from a 
hurricane." Despite this, the judge ruled in favor of the 
environmentalists. Ultimately, the project was aborted in favor of 
building up existing levees.


However, the old plan lived on in the minds of those who put human 
beings first. The Army Corps of Engineers as recently as last year 
had publicly discussed resuming the practice. The September-October 
2004 edition of Riverside (the magazine of the New Orleans District 
Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Office) referred to this 
lawsuit and project. Eric Lincoln's article titled, "Old Plans 
Revived for Category 5 Hurricane Protection," stated:


In 1977, plans for hurricane protection structures at the Rigolets 
and Chef Menteur Pass were sunk when environmental groups sued the 
district. They believed that the environmental impact statement did 
not adequately address several potential problems, including impacts 
on Lake Pontchartrain's ecosystem and damage to wetlands. 


Ultimately, an agreement between the parties resulted in a consent 
decree to forego the structures at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur 
Pass…The new initial feasibility study will look at protecting the 
area between the Pearl River and Mississippi River from a Category 5 
storm…. (Emphasis added.)


The article added, "[A]lternatives that would be studied in the 
initial feasibility report are: Construction of floodgate 
structures, with environmental modifications, at Rigolets and Chef 
Pass." (Emphasis added.) The Times-Picayune recorded last May, "the 
corps wants to take another look [at building the floodgates] using 
more environmentally sensitive construction than was previously 
available." This time the Army Corps of Engineers would modify the 
original plans because of the environmentalists. However, the 
project was already delayed more than two decades because of the 
environmentalists' lawsuit. If begun immediately it would take 
another two decades to complete: a 40-year delay caused by the Green 


Planning for a category five hurricane was, indeed, visionary 
thinking. Few people believed such a storm would take place more 
often than once every few centuries, and no one had the political 
will to fight for the funding such a project would necessitate. 
However, scientists had long warned about New Orleans' vulnerability 
to the potential for massive loss of life caused by such things as 
the environmentalists' lawsuit. A National Geographic article, 
written after a smaller hurricane last year, captured the sentiments 
of one such expert:


"The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours 
before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a 
Category Five at 24 hours – coming from the worst direction," says 
Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State 
University who has spent 30 years studying the coast…"I don't think 
people realize how precarious we are."


As it turned out, this is exactly how events played out during the 
next hurricane, one year later. USA Today noted, the levees the 
government had constructed were no match for the vortex of this 
force of nature. Soon Katrina pushed inland:


Hurricane Katrina pushed Lake Pontchartrain over the flood 
walls...The spilling water then undermined the walls, and they 
toppled…Lake Pontchartrain, a body half the size of Rhode Island, 
was losing about a foot of water every 10 hours into New Orleans.


The rushing lake soon overwhelmed the city's pumps. The ever-rising 
water soon mixed with sewage, creating a toxic liquid mixture that 
burned the skin on contact. When the flood levels grounded the city 
buses Mayor Ray Nagin never deployed, it denied thousands of New 
Orleans' poorest and feeblest an escape. 


Despite the mayor's apparent incompetence, these floodgates 
environmental activists sued to prevent from being constructed may 
have kept a flood from consuming the city to the extent it did in 
the first place. The current programs aimed at reinforcing existing 
levees but would only prove effective against a level three 
hurricane; they were not adequate for a level five storm like 
Katrina. Moreover, they did not fortify the specific areas the 
government sought to protect, to keep Lake Pontchartrain from 
flooding the entire city, which everyone knew posed a danger to a 
city below sea level. In other words, this plan would have saved 
thousands of lives and kept one of the nation's greatest cities from 
lying in ruins for a decade. 


At a minimum, such a plan would have staved off a significant 
portion of the disaster that's unfolded before our eyes.


Worse yet, the environmentalists' ultimate decision to reinforce 
existing levees may have actually further harmed the Big Easy. There 
is at least one expert who claims the New Orleans levees made no 
difference – in fact, they contributed to the problem. Deputy 
Director of the LSU Hurricane Center and Director of the Center for 
the Study Public Health Impacts by Hurricanes Ivor van Heerden 
said, "The levees `have literally starved our wetlands to death' by 
directing all of that precious silt out into the Gulf of Mexico." 


Thirty  years after its legal action, Save Our Wetlands 
boasts, "SOWL's legacy lives on and on within the heart and spirit 
of every man, woman, child, bird, red fish, speckle trout, croakers, 


Despite its pious rhetoric, the environmental Left's true legacy 
will be on display in New Orleans for years to come.

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