Save our Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes

Cat and Ship Islands - Gulf Islands National Seashore
Cat and Ship Islands - Gulf Islands National Seashore

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words and in these pictures are two barrier islands in the Mississippi Sound. As Nowdy would say they belong to you and me, preserved forever in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Part inspiration for artists and home to seabirds these islands protect the mainland from stormy seas. Still standing despite being hit by Camille and then Katrina 36 years later these islands are as important to the ecology of the Mississippi Coast as the marshes of Plaquemines and St Bernard Parishes are to New Orleans and the North Shore.

I’ve been holding this post since early last month beginning with the release of the revised Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, a topic we’ve blogged on extensively here at Slabbed, most recently here and here.

While the story of the ongoing development of the Coastal Improvement Program is vital to the coast it has been one of those topics Nowdy and I simply don’t have time to cover right now due to time constraints associated with our day jobs thus it’s consignment to the dreaded drafts folder which is the slabbed equivalent of the roach motel with few ever making it back out. Thanks to a strangely out of context but well timed Op-ed in today’s Clarion Ledger this post literally has arisen from the stormy deep albeit in a differing direction.

Before we pick apart the Op-ed some helpful local context is in order. The first draft of the coastal improvement plan was in reality a glorified whitepaper containing the results of some ivory tower brainstorming which resulted in several broad concepts worthy of consideration. The problem related to institutional arrogance on part of the USACE in that the discussion was being held without benefit of any local input as it was not publicized….that is not until it was found on the web and spread like wildfire through the local community that duly noted the buyout provision was mandatory and historic in proportion.

It was only after the plan jumped from web to the press via the Sun Herald that USACE scheduled public meetings on the matter and by then the damage was done. Before I get to USACE’s ham handed way of handling public relations I want to give a shout out to our very good friend Editilla over at the New Orleans News Ladder and his good friend Sandy Rosenthal at who have been GO Zone front and center with the many problems in how the USACE approaches it’s public mandate. Ms Rosenthal typifies what I call a Katrina Warrior. Before the storm both Editilla and Ms Rosenthal were just ordinary people thrust into the most extraordinary of events in Katrina and its aftermath. I dedicate the balance of this post to them and welcome back Sid Salter as we follow some money. First up is the Youtube setup so our out of town readers can get an idea what the mention of the USACE does to locals previously familiar with the way they conduct business.


They’re back…..

As their name implies the mission of the US Army Corps of Engineers is engineering and from their steamroll method of conducting public relations there is no doubt the place is run by engineers. Of course the locals here take exception to being run over which brings us to JR Welsh’s recent article on the topic of the USACE and its responsiveness to the public for the Sun Herald:

Federal officials are bringing back their road show on a proposed massive overhaul of the Mississippi Coast, and again they have local officials here upset over the way the issue is being handled.

At a series of public hearings scheduled next week, the Army Corps of Engineers will reveal details of a draft plan and environmental-impact statement for the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program. The multi-year, nearly $1 billion program includes proposals for restoration of barrier islands and other projects, as well as a plan for the government to buy out large amounts of flood-prone private lands………

In Hancock County, local officials were surprised to learn their Corps of Engineers hearing is being held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday — the same time as a regular meeting when the Bay St. Louis City Council is scheduled to vote on a long-delayed comprehensive plan and new proposed land-use map.

Council meetings are held every other Tuesday evening and are scheduled weeks in advance.

“This has put us in a really bad dilemma, and I am totally disappointed,” City Councilman Jim Thriffiley said Thursday. “This is pitiful.”

The MSCIP, which would run for 20 years or more, is a major federal initiative to repair hurricanes damage and mitigate effects of future flooding. The proposal includes building a $12 million levee in Harrison County, repairing barrier islands, and relocating the entire Moss Point municipal government complex at a cost of $8.4 million.

The Corps of Engineers also proposes to buy out about 2,000 parcels of private land and return them to a natural state. Much of that activity would occur in Hancock County. As proposed, the buyouts would be voluntary.

In September 2007, the Corps of Engineers held a similar meeting that drew fireworks from residents in Bay St. Louis and surrounding communities. The Corps of Engineers gave little public notice of the hearing, and the meeting place was changed several times on short notice.

When the hearing did occur several hundred residents, many of them angry, showed up. Most who spoke blasted the Corps of Engineers and state Department of Marine Resources over the buyout plan.

Critics feared the proposal could lead to the death of Bay St. Louis by running off residential and commercial occupants, turning neighborhoods into vacant land and draining the tax base. The proposal resulted in protest resolutions from groups including the Bay City Council and the Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, at the same time the new Corps of Engineers hearing is scheduled, Bay council members are expected to vote on a comprehensive plan more than two years in the making. The plan will be a blueprint for future growth and land use, and includes a controversial new land-use map that creates large waterfront development districts. No such districts currently exist.

Thriffiley said he contacted Corps of Engineers officials in Mobile and asked that the Bay MSCIP hearing be rescheduled, as the City Council would not be able to attend. He said he was told that could not be done.

“Do we want to miss this activity that’s going to have such an impact on our future?” Thriffiley said.

In fairness to USACE they did belatedly reschedule their meeting to Wednesday but only after they were forced to do so, most likely by Rep Taylor. It is also clear USACE still really doesn’t value the local public input as their initial response to Councilman Thriffiley’s very reasonable request indicates. As was very well reported here last month and blogged on here there were several changes including changing the number of properties subject to buyout from 17,000 to 2,000 and making it expressly clear the buyouts were to be voluntary. I’ll let JR Welsh pick up the coverage:

Several hundred residents listened Wednesday night as the Army Corps of Engineers brought plans for its coastal improvements program back to Hancock County, and the mood differed substantially from a previous meeting held on the same subject in 2007.

While many faces remained impassive, few people spoke out during a public comment period on the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, a $1 billion-plus federal coastal restoration plan. Most notably, there were few comments on a corps proposal to buy out 2,000 parcels of flood-prone private lands along the Coast.

That same proposal brought a torrent of anger and criticism from Hancock residents in 2007. Given the state of the economy and the county’s slow pace of recovery from Katrina, some officials believe public attitudes on a buyout may have softened.

“I think the attitudes have changed considerably since the last time we were here,” said William Walker, director of the state Department of Marine Resources, during the program at Bay-Waveland Middle School.

The Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program is a major, multiyear undertaking by the federal government. Proposals call for the program to include barrier islands restoration, wetlands work, construction of a levee near Turkey Creek in Harrison County, relocating the Moss Point Municipal Government Complex away from the water, and buying out homes in the Pecan community in Jackson County.

The program will not be fully funded until a report is submitted to Congress later this year.

Although the program has many facets, its immediate potential effects on Hancock County seem to be the voluntary buyout, and a flood-proofing project that would involve elevating about 25 homes in Waveland, around the Waveland Avenue area. Corps maps show the buyout areas to include large swaths of land along the water in south Hancock County, as well as in the south Diamondhead area.

Beachfront areas and other parts of Bay St. Louis including Cedar Point and portions of Waveland, Clermont Harbor, and Bayou Caddy would be involved.

Bay St. Louis property owner Michael Brander was one of the few who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing. He questioned the government’s promise that landowners who participate in a voluntary buyout would be paid “fair market value” for their property. “What is fair market value, with all things considered?” he said.

But he got no reply, because corps officials said the meeting was not a question-and-answer session.

Walker said he has recommended that before funding the program, Congress require that local governing political bodies in each affected community to agree to buyouts. He said he regularly receives calls from residents who lost their homes in Katrina, cannot sell their property and cannot rebuild.

“They’re stuck,” Walker said.

Now of course I was not Karnac the magnificent when I wrote this last month:

Flooding out with both Ike and Gustav has since taken some of the starch and venom away from the buyout concept. With the amount of higher land that is available in the area there is simply no excuse to not indulge our greener instincts and let marshland be marshland. And besides the duck hunting is excellent.

As I know people who are actually impacted, Mr Welsh’s reporting came as no surprise to me and that brings us to the Clarion Ledger and today’s Op-ed which exhibits a complete disconnect from the events here. It cites what to this point is the mystery opinions of Rob Young of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University. I say mystery opinions because the piece the C-L cites is not on their Perspective page as of 12:34PM this afternoon. Cut to the bone by job cuts the C-L and its website have become a very sad case as its corporate parent suffers the impacts of the recession. That said I think I’ve seen enough in the editorial to call bullshit on these folks from WCU:

Yet even on that scale, the buyout proposed by the Corps along the Mississippi coast would be the largest federal buyout ever in the U.S.

In Perspective today, Rob Young, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, argues that the Corps is “pursuing a policy that may not be popular with the Mississippi congressional delegation, but one that should be embraced by the majority of concerned American taxpayers.”

I had no idea CIP was not popular among the Mississippi Congressional delegation. In fact since it represents a report to Congress itself I fail to see how, at this point, anyone could accurately gauge the CIP’s popularity or lack thereof. I do know there has been some very pointed criticisms levied at how the process was being conducted and for good reason as the Sun Herald has documented. I could be wrong but I think Mr Young is pursuing some sort of hidden agenda as the Op-ed continues:

In support of his argument, Young said that a proposal to “restore” the undeveloped barrier islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore would cost an estimated $477 million while the benefits to the mainland shoreline are estimated at only $17.6 million per year in possible storm damage reduction.

Young said the buyouts – or “relocations” – would cost an estimated $187 million to $397 million, while the benefits are significantly larger at $22 million to $33 million per year in terms of possible storm damage reduction.

But asking Gulf Coast storm survivors who have fought so long and so hard to rebuild their lives and communities to take buyouts and relocate may prove a hard sell. The state’s congressional delegation should take a hard look at the MCIP draft report.

I think I can safely say that at least Congressman Taylor and Senator Wicker have looked closely at the CIP as they were quoted over a month ago on the subject in a story we featured in a post last month. I’ll say again many locals want a way out and the buyouts are such a way out. And of course missing from the Op-ed are the causes of the controversy to begin with in the ham handed way USACE has handled this from the start. You gotta think whoever writes editorials these days for the C-L was largely clueless to the events surrounding the CIP or the implication that Barrier Island Restoration, an idea pushed hard by both Governor Barbour and Rep Taylor, is somehow a poor use of money. Or for that matter the silly notion that buyouts were somehow an alternative to barrier island restoration instead of being part of a comprehensive solution to a larger problem.

Given the general mistrust so well EARNED by USACE by the populace here and the fact I’ve been at this blogging thing for a while I naturally wondered as to the timing of Mr Young’s mystery piece at the C-L.  Since I could not find it on the C-L website I tracked Mr Young down at his website (linked above) which I found very comprehensive to the topic in general.  It is clear Mr Young and his assistant are very good at getting their opinions published in newspapers. I found out a good bit and highly recommend the website for those so interested but I did not find the two things that I was looking for in particular. Mr Young’s article for the C-L or their source of funding.

Yeah I follow the money just about all the time anymore and I can easily imagine an offshore reinsurer as the source of Mr Young’s funding at WCU. I’ll add as a Katrina impacted resident that since Katrina I’ve seen all manner of flies come buzzing around with hidden agendas and motivations from crooks like the Camp Coastal Outpost’s Sweeney and Molenhouse to paid shills like David Rossmiller. I generally don’t waste time with niceties anymore so I’ll lump this Young character in with the rest until proven otherwise. The USACE report itself tells us what neither the Op-ed nor Mr Young would or could – that storm mitigation was just one factor among many supporting the restoration of the Gulf Islands National Seashore:

Subsequent computer modeling of storm damage reduction benefits from any engineered changes reveal that storm surge reduction was not large, but other benefits would be obtained from simply maintaining the existence of the islands. These benefits include reduction of wave damage to the mainland coast and many important environmental benefits associated with maintaining Mississippi Sound as an estuary formed by the islands. Coordination with the National Park Service (NPS) who has ownership of most of the islands and other agencies has resulted in a plan that will provide continuing existence for the islands that have been badly eroded by storms.

That’s right there are several good reasons for funding island restoration besides storm impact mitigation. Besides those mentioned in the executive summary of the USACE report I’ll add another in the living history contained on the Islands such as Fort Massachusetts. The public also uses the Islands recreationaly and that provides synergies as family oriented entertainment for other coastal attractions like the casinos. In the narrow context of cost-benefit Mr Young cites spending money on the Islands looks like a bad idea.  In a larger context the cost-benefit equation is not even close.

And speaking of cost-benefit and funding I personally question the fundamental level of intellectualism involved with Mr Young’s economic calculus. It seems to rely on the misguided notion that coastal areas are subsided by the land lubbers in the interior. Here in Mississippi the opposite is true as I suspect the case most everywhere. International trade couldn’t happen without our ports for instance and Mr Young couldn’t drive to work without the gasoline that is produced by our refineries. In Mississippi (circa April 2008 and according to Mike Chaney) roughly 40% of the state’s budget is generated from the relatively small geographic area in Mississippi “from Hattiesburg south”.

I say that because my experince has been that when an academic or special interest group becomes concerned with how tax money will be spent is precisely when we all need to grab our nation’s wallet and hold tight as the messenger is usually looking for a taxpayer handout to their benefit.

So it is against this backdrop that I hope the powers that be at the C-L take time themselves to learn about CIP and educate themselves on this very important process. Further I hope they run an alternative viewpoint in the interest of fairness, perhaps contact the Governor or Congressman Taylor. I’ll add this issue of coastal restoration is just as vital to our very good friends to the west in Louisiana. The marshes of St Bernard Parish used to provide a storm buffer not only for the City of New Orleans but Hancock County as well. Now they are largely gone, sacrificed at the altar of this nation’s thirst for oil and trade.

The ultimate irony of course, is that on the same day the C-L displayed a vast amount of ignorance on this issue, the New Orleans Times Picayune was giving their annual Loving Cup award to R. King Milling, a local advocate of coastal restoration and it is with their accompanying article on the award that I close this post:

About a decade ago, R. King Milling had a meeting that changed his life.

As the president of Whitney National Bank and the member of countless commissions and boards, he already had plenty on his plate. But three environmentalists, including a prep school classmate, wanted Milling’s advice on getting support from the business community for saving Louisiana’s coast, a topic that had first grabbed Milling’s attention during his years of hunting in Louisiana’s marshland.

Midway through their pitch, Milling cut them off.

“I said, ‘This is not just about the environment,” he recalled last week. “‘It’s about culture, commerce and survival.’

“They looked at me and smiled, and I knew that I had been had.”

Thus began Milling’s involvement in saving the wetlands and restoring the coastline that was steadily being eaten away, making New Orleans more vulnerable to storms. He is chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Restoration and Conservation, America’s Wetland Foundation and the Committee of the Future of Coastal Louisiana, and he is a board member of five other coast-related organizations.

Once Milling started getting involved, he said, he couldn’t stop.

“It took on a life of its own,” he said. “You end up grabbing the alligator by the tail, and you can’t let him go because he’ll bite the devil out of you.”

For his activity in coastal restoration, as well as decades of work in a long list of organizations, Milling, 68, has been chosen to receive The Times-Picayune Loving Cup for 2008.

21 thoughts on “Save our Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes”

  1. Wow! When I was doing the MRGO update, I thought about how the issue might look to readers from other states – particularly those who haven’t been with us long enough to pick up much of the history.

    A figure that puts it all in perspective for me is the estimate that three feet of flooding in the the lower 9th is directly attributable to environmental damage that made MRGO a funnel pouring water into New Orleans

    Think about the lives and property needlessly lost from those 3 feet of flood water – just heartbreaking – as are the similar situations on our coast.

  2. I answered my own question on funding Nowdy and find that sometimes science is for sale. Why would someone from out of state misportray this very complex issue and oppose fixing Mississippi’s barrier islands?

    Because Young snagged WCU as the relocated home of the Santa Aguila Charitable Trust:

    The trust is especially interested in illustrating the negative impacts of sand mining, where sand is removed from beaches, often for construction purposes elsewhere; and shoreline armoring, where hard structures such as seawalls, jetties or groins are used to try to halt the naturally occurring movement of beaches, said Griffith.

    In this strange world I’m jaded to the point where I not surprised tree huggers from Paris France are against us fixing our uninhabited barrier islands. You reckon Mr Young’s opinion would be different if the National Audubon Society were paying his freight? You bet.

    The Clarion Ledger has been punked.


  3. 1) Restore barrier islands.
    2) Restore marsh lands.
    3) Levee protection.
    4) Buy outs.
    5) Better building codes.

    We need to use all these tools to deal with hurricanes. Reducing the risk we assume is the only long term solution for our area. I applaud Gene Taylor’s efforts to reduce our risk assumption. He has a long history of supporting responsible risk management which has been well documented by the Sun Herald and others.

  4. Here Professor Ivor Van Heerden shows the three step solution to our flooding problems. All 50 states have levee’s. He gives his three steps to better protection.

    The three critical things are:

    1) Armored levee’s.
    2) Wetlands to protect the levee’s.
    3) Barrier Isands to protect the wetlands.

    There are solutions. Many do not understand the importance of our Gulf Coast for the economic vitality of the rest of the State. Our access to deep water shipping channels are vital to the entire economic infrastructure of Mississippi.

  5. Perhaps you could read my Perspectives article before you tear me to shreds.

    Why would someone from, God forbid, out of state, oppose dumping a half a billion dollars worth of sand on the Gulf Islands? Not because I am a tree hugger, but because I am a scientist and a conservative. My professional opinion is that it will not reduce the vulnerability of the mainland shore. Call me anything that you wish, but it is an honest opinion, and dismissing me just because I am out of state seems very narrow minded.

    Getting as much property as is practical out of harm’s way is the best long-term solution.

    Ok, let me have it.

  6. Actually Rob the C-L editorial writer did a good job summing up your piece and frankly I think it is position advocacy dressed up as science.

    You couched a comprehensive plan as a group of competing choices when that is not the case.Your cost benefit figures did not include all the benefits listed in the USACE report.

    And those are just some of the reasons I dismissed you. The fact you were out of state made me curious as to your funding source which I revealed in the second comment on this thread. You’re interested because your paid to be and you’d never be in support of sand mining.

    Rather than writing letters to the editor from behind your ivory tower you at least owe it to the people here to participate in the public meetings which have drawn a great deal of interest as the news reports on this thread indicate. The party is here Rob not in the Carolina mountains.

    You claim to be conservative and I’ll take you at your word there. My experience living in the area is that market forces are working and redevelopment of the low lying areas has not been great. but then again we have the highest flood elevations on the Gulf of Mexico and very stringent building codes. Economics preclude most of the people here from ever redeveloping their low lying land. The rest spend big money insuring their flood mitigated structures. And unlike your State of North Carolina we don’t build houses on the beach nor do we have them on our barrier islands.

    Tell your french sugar daddy that Iberville’s descendants on the Mississippi coast say to take his sand beach foundation and stick it where the sun don’t shine!


  7. Rob, I noted that Dr. Pilkey’s parents were residents of Waveland at the time Katrina hit and that he retired from Duke the year after and transferred the Program to you at WCU.

    Knowing that history and Duke rather well, I am interested in how the Program’s research is funded for reasons I explain below.

    You may not know that post-Katrina funding of all Katrina-related projects is a big issue in all of the hard hit areas.

    Your opinion landed you on the wrong side of a controversy not unlike those described in Dr. Pilkey’s book “The Corps and the Shore” (

    The natives are restless – and rightly so. The Corps buyout is not a preservation project. It simply buys out homeowners and opens the door to other forms of development. This buyout does not put the land in conservation.

    Homeowners in coastal Mississippi and Louisiana have been slabbed by Katrina, slabbed by the insurance industry, slabbed by our nation’s poorly thought-out and carried-out disaster assistance – and slabbed by the Corps when its projects caused the very flooding the agency is funded to prevent.

    Reports that slab common sense solutions such as restoring the environmental protections that had been effective for centuries are not well received – particularly those that assign no value to historical or environmental preservation and expose our history and environment to greater risk.

    We have learned the hard way that we must be vigilent in our watch for reports and/or organizations funded by the Corps or the insurance industry as a “fronts” for their positions.

    I’ve spent a good bit of time in your area and point out that “Unto these Hills” is the story of a relocation, a black spot in our nation’s history. None of us want “Unto this Shoreline” to be the sequel.

    Instead, we want to preserve both history and the environment and mitigate against disaster, not create one.

  8. I will try and address both of the above posts. I thank both posters for your comments. I am interested in learning from anyone on the ground in Mississippi. I am especially appreciative of those who are willing to have this discussion without insulting me. The point of my Op Ed was to contrast the cost savings to taxpayers to two different approaches to dealing with hazards. The Corps has never looked seriously at buying out some properties. Of, course it would have been nice if those funds were available immediately after the storm so that folks didn’t have to fight with their insurance companies, and others. The most recent edition of the MCIP asserts that lands acquired will be set aside as a storm buffer. Certainly, this could have been handled better.

    I also respect you comment regarding relocation. Please understand that I am not advocating wholesale abandonment of the coast. We are simply asking communities to consider establishing a wider buffer between the hazards and the development by stepping back one or two rows. There are many benefits from this strategy.

    Sand mining and beach nourishment are not the same thing. I am not against beach nourishment. Our campaign against sand mining is to prevent sand from being removed directly from beaches, which is largely an international problem. I am concerned about the beach restoration proposed for the Gulf Islands because the Corp’s own data indicates that it will not help reduce storm surge. It might help a bit with waves. So my opposition is from a scientific perspective, I think that it will not deliver what is promised.

    I am happy to continue discussing these important issues with you, despite your desire to try and marginalize me because, God forbid, I work at a university, and because, horrors, a french foundation contributes to less than 1% of our budget. If this blog is for dialogue, then engage me. If it is for insulting, then you will not be bothered by me again.

  9. Rob, it might ease your mind or at least sooth your feelings to think of Sop’s post as “trading insults”.

    The Corps’ “own data” can not indicate restoration will help reduce storm surge as they would prove the plaintiffs’ case in the Louisiana MRGO litigation. However, they have proposed and begun implementing a plan that would do just that. Much of that information is contained in posts here on SLABBED. (see “search”)

    Our commitment here is to ensure “the slabbed” aren’t marginalized and we welcome all who are willing to look beneath the “surge” that made Katrina both our nation’s largest disaster and biggest fund-raising event in history at the expense of the people on the Coast.

    Most of your research is in journal articles that are not accessible to the public. If you have a way to we can link to copies, I’d like to read more than just the abstracts on the web.

    I’m going to order a copy of “The Corps and the Shore” and hope others will as well.

  10. nowdoucit: Again, thanks for your comments. I have been on the scene of every large hurricane to hit the US, Mexico, and Caribbean for the last 25 years. I do not lack an understanding of what can happen to coastal communities. We like to believe that we work with those communities to make sure that the impacts are not as bad the next time. I have not had the opportunity to do so post-Katrina in Mississippi, but I would welcome the opportunity. I have served on a governor’s panel in LA.

    As for the storm surge reduction. There is simply no scientific evidence that beach nourishment on the Gulf Islands will reduce storm surge. My professional opinion is that it will not and that money could be better spent providing homeowner subsidies for raising homes and meeting or exceeding building codes.. We may disagree, but my opinion is not motivated by any malice nor is it motivated by my sources of research funding.

    As for soothing my feelings, that’s OK. My feelings don’t get hurt. I just find it more productive to have discussions when I’m not being told to “stick something where the sun don’t shine”.

    If you are interested in some of our work. I would be happy to send you a pile of our publications and possibly some PDFs.


  11. Well, Rob, all I can say is that you’ve never met a man who “roof surfed” his family to safety (see “stories” left sidebar) and then paid a small fortune for an architect to draw up plans to rebuild above elevation requirements in 2005 and three lots later in 2009 still has nothing but plans other than a new requirement to rebuild even higher.

    Anything you send via email to the addy in top right corner will get to me. Let’s start there as my reading time is limited. Sop and I both work and work-in time for blogging (usually at expense of sleep).

    Cheers to you, too.


  12. Glad you made it to safety. Your story is why I have suggested that some of the funds could be better spent directly aiding homeowners of primary homes build back safely meeting any new requirements.

  13. I’ll give you this teach, you got more sack than some of the others that have blown through here since the storm. Hurricane credentials mean nothing, Tim Marshall of HAAG Engineering has been in more storms than you and me combined and he very easily sells his good name for a few bucks.

    That said you’re getting warmer because there are scientists on the other side of the issue with vastly differing opinions from yours and that is really all we have, opinions.

    Gustav and Ike opened many eyes here – neither storm passed very close yet the associated surge was greater than what Cindy brought via direct strike in 2005. And of course what was missing in 2008? The Marshlands and Barrier Islands Katrina took out in 2005.

    You and I both know this is more complex than anecdotal evidence from two storms that passed us by in 2008, more complex I’d submit than either of our abilities to fully comprehend the interplay of all the various variables that determine the height of storm surge such as tides, wind direction and intervening obstacles to name a few.

    My interest goes farther than mere opinion though. There is an entire industry devoted to weather modeling and cat impact modeling.that insurers use that I believe ties into this conversation from a scientific standpoint. Perhaps you’ll stick around with us when we roll out those posts and we’ll find out what you really know.

    Finally there is a public policy aspect here that is being overlooked. You see, you’re coming into this conversation way late. If you think spending $500MM restoring the barrier islands is a waste of money what about the billions we’ve spent running water and sewer into marshlands that allow their development in the first place? We need smart government and as Nowdy said from a long term respsonse perspective the left hand (FEMA) has no clue what the right hand (USACE) is doing.

    Finally I didn’t insult you. Where the sun don’t shine was an invitation. I will admit to questioning your motives and I still don’t trust you. I’ll shamelessly engage in French revolutionary war sloganeering when given the chance.


  14. sop: I do not and never have, sold myself for bucks. I do not, and never have, worked for ,or with the insurance companies. I totally agree with you that natural systems are more complex than most scientists (and almost all engineers) would like to admit. Trying to computer model storm surge and storm process is beyond our capabilities and often mis-leading. I will send you guys a paper indicating this. I totally agree with everything you say in the second to last paragraph. Scary, huh?

  15. “Often misleading” is the name of the insurance game when it comes to the science of hurricane damage, Rob.

    The industry is trying to establish a body of irrefutable scientific evidence that would justify favorable court decisions about their claims handling.

    In one recent case, the plaintiff’s provided a diverse set of expert witnesses. I found the related legal documents interesting reading and thought you might as well.

    By the way, I’d like to read the paper on sea walls that I saw on your publications list because of our interest in Ike.

  16. They don’t call them BARRIER islands for nothing? Our barrier islands not only protect us from hurricanes they also CREATE the second most fertile body of water in the world. The Mississippi Sound. The economic impact of our Mississippi Sound is great. If you enjoy crabs or oysters for dinner tonight think of us. Because they probably came from our Mississippi Sound. We have the worlds largest oyster reef right infront of my momma’s house in Bay St. Louis all protected by our Barrier Reefs. Much wildlife and nature depends our good stewartship of the gift mother nature so generously provided us. Should I go on. I will barrier island—


  17. Ooops. Should read barrier islands where I said reefs. But it does point to one major flaw in the original FEMA maps for flood elevations. The guys who did those elevation maps were at a real disadvantage in life. They had not bothered to actually visit and examine that which they wrote about in their report. They relied upon space pictures to give them an idea of what was going on. While that may seem OK on the SURFACE, it was not. I say SURFACE because that is all they examined. All they could examine with picture. They had not factored into their equations and models the SUBSURFACE, or flood of the Mississippi Sound. You see any child of our area knows that our Mississippi Sounds is great for floundering. Why? Soft often muddy ocean floors are in our area enmass. Flounders love em because those muddy floors protect them from harm while they lay in wait on the bottom to catch an unsuspecting shrimp or minnor who might swim by. Crabs also like those soft floors because it provides them a place to hide as well. Hurricanes appearantly do not like our soft muddly floors the Mississippi Sound provides. It tends to LOWER the flood levels and this I like. So I think I’ll keep our muddy ocean floor just the way mother nature made em. Hope this helps. By the way if you want ot come down and join SOP and I for a little soft shell crab and floundering night. We will be gald to have you down. Its a long honored tradition arround here and it might help you see what lies below the surface of our Barrier Islands. Thanks Hope to see you soon.

  18. My concern about the barrier island plan is that the Corps does things like this in the most expensive way possible. If they would set rocks around the shallow areas that have eroded off the ends of the islands, pump in dredge material, let that soup settle, and then send volunteers out there to plant native grasses and sea oats. Once one section is established, then set the rocks out there to reclaim the next few acres.
    They could gradually recover what was lost from Katrina at a reasonable cost. That is what worked on the east end of Deer Island.

    They can’t go out there and try to put East and West Ship back together in one big project unless the purpose of the program is to make millionaires out of contractors.

    As for the buyouts, they should be targeted and be part of restoration projects in repetitive loss areas, not random purchases in places that only flood from a Camille or a Katrina. The original plan would have bought out homes in Mississippi that would not even be in the flood zones in Alabama.

Comments are closed.