Portion of New Orleans protection plan: better levees (purple), rebuilt wetlands (orange) and Mississippi River water diversions to sustain healthier marshes (blue triangles).

Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005 and little has been done since then to improve long-term storm protection for the city and surrounding delta. The wait may finally be over. After years of fighting over competing plans between state and federal agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, cities and parishes (counties), a grand plan has emerged, championed by a state agency whose leaders had been screaming into deaf ears about the need for better safeguards long before Katrina struck.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority revealed the master plan yesterday. The plan would require $50 billion over 50 years to rebuild vast marshes and barrier islands all along the delta coast, creating natural buffers against storm surges and waves. More levees, floodwalls and gates to protect New Orleans and other towns would also be erected. Several main parts of the plan echo recommendations experts made in a 2006 Scientific American article that weighed the potential options.

New Orleans’s primary local news organization, the Times-Picayune, has posted a clear, interesting article that explains the plan’s steps and considers the likelihood that they will gain the necessary public and political support. The site includes a map that shows where the primary projects would take place, as well as a map outlining the addition 1,756 square miles of wetlands that would be lost to the sea if the plan is not implemented.

The restoration authority will take public comments on the plan through February 25, and will hold three open meetings in and around New Orleans on January 23 to 25.

Image: Courtesy of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority