How New Orleans came to be (was: [FoRK] Katrina)

Russell Turpin deafbox
Mon Aug 29 06:45:43 PDT 2005

Adam L Beberg:
>No mystery, they are below sea level. That's beyond stupid on soooo many 
>levels, it's mind boggling. ..

What people forget is that New Orleans solved a
problem. The Mississippi, as everyone knows, is the
greatest natural conduit for goods in this nation.
That doesn't matter so much now, what with the
national highway system, eighteen wheelers, and
cheap diesel. But even so, the Port of Southern
Louisiana is, in terms of goods that pass through it,
the largest in the US, and fifth largest in the world.

The problem with the Mississippi is that there's no
easy way to get into it from the sea. All that water
exits through an expansive, flat, swampy delta,
whose geography always was changing, that was
far too shoal for ships, and whose winding channels
were hard to sail in any case.

Ships could sail into Lake Pontchartrain from the
gulf. And there is this one point where Lake
Pontchartrain practically meets the Mississippi, where
the latter is still a river, the two separated only by
a narrow isthmus. In fact, it wasn't hard to dredge
a canal between the two, so that cargo was easily
barged from ships in Pontchartrain to riverboats on
the Mississippi, and vice versa. That was a long time
ago, and now that ships are all moved by screw
and that the river is dredged, there's no need to
have them come into Pontchartrain. The canal
has since been filled, and is now known as Canal
Street. The levees that keep Pontchartrain and
the river from flooding actually contribute to the
subsidence of the land between. It wasn't always
below sea level.

But for a while, that narrow isthmus between
Pontchartrain and the Mississippi was a very
important spot for commerce. It was the natural
hub, back when nature made hubs.

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