Sunday, June 04, 2006

Where's the national debate on rebuilding flood-prone areas?

A society with limited resources sometimes has to make "tough love" decisions with those limited resources.

By 2010, Congress estimates that $97 billion will have been spent in Hurricane Katrina relief (see Table A-1, pg 108 of the CBO's The Budget and Economic: Years 2007 to 2016). The Heritage Foundation estimates the final cost could be twice that amount.

Our federal politicians have yet to face the sinking facts on New Orleans and surrounding areas (New Orleans Sinking Faster Than Thought, Satellites Find (HT: BizzyBlog via email) ) and give our country the debate it deserves:

Should New Orleans and other flood-prone areas be rebuilt at tax-payer expense?
Note that the question says nothing of private efforts to rebuild. It solely addresses public finance decisions.

Those that argue that the call for such a debate makes one guilty of 'knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing', should first answer the following: If New Orleans didn't exist, would you advocate for building it today in the sinking flood plain?

Moreover, there is historical precedence for such debate. After the 1993 Mississippi Flood, the National Research Council authored a report called Reducing Future Flood Losses. One of the primary recommendations of the report was to "Avoid developing the floodplain unless absolutely necessary".

We do future generations a disservice by using all heart or all brains when tackling tough problems. So far the country has been generous and responded with heart to the human tragedy of Katrina. The federal government may be avoiding the debate, but other segments of our society are starting to make rational decisions with regard to hurricane-prone areas (see: Hunt is on for insurance coverage).

It's now time to use a combination of heart/mind and debate the reconstruction.




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