On Friday, I briefly mentioned here on my blog about the imminent flooding expected for my part of the world. Last week, people in this area were waiting to see what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would do about the Morganza Spillway. On Friday afternoon, we found out they were planning to open it.
This part of Louisiana is known as the Atchafalaya Basin. This is where the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers drain to the Gulf. The people living here know that, we’ve known that for a hell of a long time. Don’t forget that many of the families who live in this area have been here for generations. Our ancestors were here before New Orleans was fully developed as a city. They were here before levees and locks and spillways and they forged a life here.
Fast-forward to the 20th century and modern man decided the land needed to be developed more for residential areas, for shipping, for production. They created man-built channels through the swamps to move big vessels to the Gulf. They filled in some natural bayous and canals to divert water (and traffic) where they wanted it. They built levees to drain marsh areas to put businesses and houses.
Through all of this, the people here shrugged and adapted. If their homes were flooded, they rebuilt their houses higher, or moved to higher ground. They accepted these things because this is their home. There’s no other place on Earth like this and they aren’t going to leave.
When hurricanes tear up the Gulf Coast, they open their arms to the displaced people in hard-hit areas even while they try to repair their own homes. For example, after Katrina, my town’s population boomed because we weren’t hit as hard as New Orleans was. People moved here to get away from the devastation and they stayed. We accepted that and moved on.
Last week, the Port Commission of New Orleans insisted that the USACE open the Morganza Spillway (which wasn’t intended as a floodgate, mind you). I was a bit stunned. Surely money couldn’t be more important than homes that will be lost when the water from the Morganza comes roaring down? I was wrong. It is more important than the homes of a few. People from Baton Rouge and New Orleans were praying for the same thing. No one seemed to care what the people who live here thought.
It was even said that this is something we should expect since we live in the delta. Why should they feel sorry for us for living here in the first place? You ever seen a pissed off Southern woman? Yeah. That was me. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Logically, I understand that the displacement of a few thousand people is better than the displacement of nearly a million, but did anyone bother to ask us? To show us compassion for what we’re about to go through? No. Not really.
I’m not going to rant. I’d love to, but it doesn’t do any good. Just don’t forget the people whose lives are going to be completely changed by the decision to open the Morganza. Eight parishes…EIGHT parishes are going to be hit compared to two cities. Will everyone in those parishes lose their homes? Probably not, but what about their jobs? How are they going to live when they can’t get to work because of road closures? Has anyone thought about that? What about the wildlife that will search out higher ground? Not all of us are alligator hunters, you know.
Ah well, maybe I’m being too dramatic. I’m not likely to flood after all, but it still grates my nerves how no one in this area was given a choice in the matter. This isn’t exactly a hurricane where it’s going to hit no matter what happens. This was a decision made by people for the “greater good”. I know it wasn’t maliciously intended. I know that, but it still feels wrong.
It just makes me think of another phrase that I’m sure you all know: C’est la vie. Such is life. We’ll survive and we’ll rebuild. It’s what we do. In the meantime, we’re waiting to see where the water will go and how bad it’s going to be.