Mark J. Clayton Associate Professor Department of Architecture Texas A&M University. “The view from the levee: a case for restoring New Orleans after the hurricanes of 2005”. 2005 – The urban geography of New Orleans is defined by the river. The Mississippi is the 14th longest river in the world (Geohive 2005a). If measured from the headwaters of the Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico, it would be the fourth longest. It has the third largest drainage area among world rivers, stretching from New York to Montana and draining over 40% of the land of the 48 contiguous states (Wikipedia 2005a).
The mouth of the Mississippi is a globally unique natural feature. One of the longest and richest river systems in the world empties lazily not into an ocean or sea, but into a relatively tranquil gulf. The deposits of silt form an enormous alluvial plain stretching from Illinois to the gulf that is some of the richest farmland in the world. Because the continental shelf ends near Baton Rouge, all of south Louisiana is alluvial deposit, a great mudslide into the open ocean.
The natural pattern is for the river to flood every spring and to change course at erratic intervals. The spring floods deposit the sand and grit and topsoil washed down from the Great Plains, the Appalachians, and the Rockies. These deposits form natural levees along the banks of the river. When the river changes its course, it leaves lakes, hillocks, and ridges.
The early settlers used these hillocks, ridges and levees for the first settlements and plantations. They built with the floods in mind, typically raising the houses several feet above the land. For its first two centuries of existence, New Orleans clung to the river bank and the high ground of the natural levees. The swamps and lowlands surrounding the city acted as buffers to the storm surges, wind storms, and floods.
In the early twentieth century, the city began an expansion towards the swamps of Lake Pontchartrain and the east. A levee was built along the lake and drainage canals were constructed. Water from the lowlands is pumped over the levees that protect the canals, and then drains into the lake. The engineering allowed new neighborhoods such as Lakeview, the Ninth Ward, and New Orleans East to be built on land below sea level.
[…] Economics: The Port of New Orleans
Permanent evacuation of South Louisiana does not make economic sense. The river is the reason for New Orleans. If you move the city, you must move the river and vice versa. The simple truths of shipping, commerce, and trade require that there must be a port at the mouth of the Mississippi.