NEW ORLEANS—The question of what it will take to prevent the next Katrina or Sandy has a pretty straightforward answer: money.
Of course that leaves a lot to be sorted out: Where should the money come from? How should it be spent? But the overarching need to invest in improving infrastructure was a plea made by several panelists during the “New Orleans: 10 Years Later,” hosted on Monday by The Atlantic.
Even a decade after New Orleans’s levees were breached, some say that the improvements made by the Army Corps of Engineers—which have included raising, rebuilding, and reinforcing levee walls, and updating predictive models to reflect the possibility of more severe storms—are still simply not enough to ensure the safety of the city or its residents in the longterm.
That’s because, even in the wake of Katrina, people do not want to raise taxes to fund the necessary improvements. “Levees require reinvestment. It’s not a free system,” says David Waggonner, the president of Waggonner and Ball Architects, which is based in New Orleans. He noted that St. Bernard Parish—which borders New Orleans and had 100 percent of its housing stock damaged or destroyed during Katrina—has twice voted against the implementation of a levee tax, which would support the maintenance of the structures meant to protect residents from the very same floodwaters in the future.