After the victims are interred and public officials held to account for the destruction of a great American city, Congress must determine what to rebuild and what to abandon to the encroaching waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
New Orleans will survive only as an island surrounded by miles of open water. It will take a national effort, led by our best scientists, engineers and city planners, to achieve even this reduced vision of an American Venice. We must take the time to redesign the city to function as an island, with an island infrastructure, including relocated streets, highways and utilities. The island will need higher, stronger seawalls and levees sufficient to withstand new threats, including the rising sea levels and bigger hurricanes spawned in warming Atlantic waters.
Sea levels are likely to rise two to three feet in this century. Coastal maps drawn from consensus estimates show that virtually all of the delta lands south of Baton Rouge and below Interstate 10 - some 5,000 square miles - will be submerged by the end of this century.