Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Waiting on the Levee? Demonstrating on the Levee!

AFTER that last piece on the United States, and with floods having recently hit several parts of Britain, it seems only right and topical to remember folks in New Orleans, with this story, from a posting by Helen Ingram to Labour Left Briefing List:

A reinforced levee and floodwall protects Jefferson Parish, a demographically whiter and wealthier neighbor of OrleansParish, from the Monticello Canal. The Orleans Parish side of the canal has virtually no flood protection. The current city drainage system pumps more water into the canal than is pumped out, often flooding the predominantly working class African American Orleans Parish neighborhood of Carrollton-Hollygrove.

"This neighborhood has always flooded during heavy rains," longtime resident and ACORN neighborhood chair Joe Sherman told protesters. "Our community is left vulnerable while the state, the Corps of Engineers and the Water and Sewerage Board keep pointing fingers."

Stephen Bradberry, Louisiana ACORN headorganizer and 2005 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award winner noted, "The risks increase for these residents because there is protection on one side, and no protection on the other."

Dr. Robert Bea, lead investigator on the National Science Foundation's inquiry into New Orleans' flood protection system, confirmed that placing a levee and floodwall on one side along theMonticello Canal but not the other had no grounding in science."It is perfect example of the disconnected incomplete nature of this flood protection system," said Dr. Bea. "Much of what happened [there] during Katrina represents the left-overs from the age of slavery in the south."

And from the Times-Picayune:

Protesters join hands to form 'human levee'
Sunday, July 29, 2007
By Ginger Gibson Staff writer

Residents of the Carrollton-Hollygrove area know that when heavy rain hits, the risk of water from the Monticello Canal overflowing into the streets, and possibly their homes, increases drastically. But the threatening rain clouds Saturday morning didn't stop about 120 people from assembling along the canal, joining hands and forming a three-block-long "human levee" to symbolize the need for better protection on the Orleans Parish side of the drainage way.

Neighborhood residents, members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and visiting volunteers took part in the rally Saturday to raise awareness of what they say is inadequate protection and a lack of concern from city, state and federal officials. They were joined by Kerry Kennedy, a human rights advocate and the daughter of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
The canal, which separates Orleans and Jefferson parishes and is higher on the Jefferson side, is used to pump rainwater out of the city during storms. The Monticello and Palmetto canals merge to form the 17th Street Canal.
Robert Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who conducted a post-Katrina study of flooding in New Orleans, said the problem with the Monticello Canal is twofold and the result of years of unorganized, loosely supervised engineering.

As water from the two canals moves into the 17th Street Canal, the water from the Palmetto prevents a continuous flow from the Monticello. The water backs up into the Monticello and without an adequate levee overflows into the Orleans Parish side.

"(The rally) is an excellent example of people uniting to say 'We're concerned, and we're not stupid. We can see we've got a problem here,' " Bea said from California.

'Sense of community'
Some relief is coming, New Orleans Councilwoman Shelley Midura said. After touring with representatives from the state Department of Transportation and Development and the city's Sewerage & Water Board on Friday, she said a study will begin soon to determine the exact cause of the flooding.
The DOTD also is going to provide concrete barricades to line the canal, preventing cars from entering it -- a concern residents had expressed before, Midura said.

Kennedy told those assembled that the lack of priority for the construction of a levee along the Monticello Canal went against international law and was a testament to the city of New Orleans' lack of concern for minorities.
"We will not be washed away," Kennedy said. "We will not be washed away in New Orleans east. We will not be washed away in Gentilly. We will not be washed away in New Orleans' 9th Ward."

'A great turnout'
While the young volunteers from two Unitarian Universalist churches included the rally as part of their weeklong trip, Mary Shaw, a Hollygrove resident, has been participating in efforts to raise awareness about the problem for several years.
She was accompanied by her neighbor Lorelei Holmes.
"This is a great turnout," Holmes said.
Shaw said that in the 38 years she has lived in the area, her home has flooded eight times -- including during Hurricane Katrina, when there was 8 feet of water in the house. She has rebuilt and moved back in.
"I come to give support," Shaw said. "They've been talking about doing this for years."
(full article at

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