Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 29, 2013

New Orleans at 8

Filed under: Recovery — by Philip J. Palin on August 29, 2013

The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center offers an analysis of economic and demographic trends since Katrina.  The full report is here.

In assessing progress or lack of Progress the Data Center compares “indicators for the New Orleans metro with that of a peer group of postindustrial metros with which New Orleans was identified pre-2000, and separately with a group of aspirational Southern metros that have experienced enviable economic growth since 2000.”

Following are a few excerpts:

As of July 2012, the US Census Bureau estimated New Orleans’ population at 369,250, or 76 percent of its 2000 population of 484,674. The metro area, with 1,205,374 residents, has 92 percent of its 2000 population of 1,316,510.

By 2012, the New Orleans metro had recouped all its recession-era losses and reached 1 percent above its 2008 job level, close to the aspirational metros which had reached 2 percent above their 2008 job level. In contrast, the nation and weaker post-industrial metros remained more than 2 percent below their 2008 job levels.

While median household income in the New Orleans metro fell 8 percent from 1999 to 2011, it fell more sharply (11 percent) nationwide over the same time frame.

As the metro’s minority share of the population fell post-Katrina, our share of all businesses that are minority-owned continued to rise, maintaining our advantage over the rest of the nation at 27 versus 21 percent.

Crime rates have declined to lower than pre-Katrina levels, but the city’s 2011 crime rates remain significantly higher than the national averages for both violent and property crimes.

Since 2004, the share of renters in the city of New Orleans paying unaffordable housing costs has spiked from 43 percent to 54 percent. City renters have historically struggled to afford housing costs compared to their national peers. As incomes declined during the 1980’s oil bust, the share of renters paying at least 35 percent of their household income on housing — a threshold considered unaffordable — increased. As incomes increased during the 1990s, that share declined. Since Katrina and the onset of the Great Recession, higher rents compounded by lower household incomes have contributed to a spike in the share of city renters paying unaffordable housing costs. As of 2011, a full 54 percent of city renters were spending more than 35 percent of their household income on housing and utilities compared to 44 percent of renters nationally.  New Orleans homeowners also struggle more than their national peers to afford housing costs. In the city, 27 percent of homeowners spend more than 35 percent of pre-tax household income on their mortgage, taxes, utilities, and insurance compared to only 23 percent of homeowners nationwide.

Between 1932 and 2010, the New Orleans region lost 948 square miles of coastal wetlands, which is nearly 30 percent of the wetlands that protect the New Orleans area from hurricane storm surge. Coastal wetlands in the Breton Sound, Barataria Basin, Mississippi River Delta Basin, and Pontchartrain Basin are the primary line of defense against hurricanes for New Orleans area residents. However, 78 years of recorded measurements reveal that nearly 30 percent of these protective wetlands have been lost — due in part to flood control projects on the Mississippi River that have starved the wetlands of sediment deposits and fresh water. Hurricanes and the construction of navigational canals by the oil and gas industry have also damaged wetlands. The slight increase in coastal wetlands from 2009 to 2010 may indicate recovery from recent hurricanes. However, it is too soon to determine if these gains are permanent or environmental variability.

Much more in The New Orleans Index at Eight.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 29, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Thanks Phil and 8 years out from Katrina landfall some good and some bad news.

To help calibrate very very tough decisions need to be made in Southern Louisiana and NOLA. The blockading of MRGO canal largely complete with unknown consequences for the next hurricane and related storm surge. The City of New Orleans is almost 150 miles from the open GOM. Largely leveed on both sides of that distance this is the main shipping route. As far as a national economic contributor the PORT of NEW ORLEANS remains important for its role as export center of Mississippi River barge and freight traffic. Also the role of national significance in South LA is from the oil and gas industry. The State of Louisiana has filed a major legal action against that industry for its role in destruction of protective wetlands. A decision in that case may in fact determine whether NOLA lives or dies during this Century.

The USACOE [United STATES ARMY Corps of Engineers] has for a mere $14B protected the NOLA area to the level of just below the 100 year flood [1% annual exceedence interval flood] but internal drainage issues from large-scale meterological events still an open issue. Remember that NOLA is threated by a five front war [perhaps reduced by one by the blockading of MRGO]. The threat is mainstem Mississippi River flooding overtopping or breeching mainstem levees. Surge from Lake Ponchatrain [sic] and the shipping canal [this occurred in Hurricane Betsy 1965 much to the amazement of the USACOE], and internal drainage issues.

FEMA has yet to finalize maps showing areas behind levees and floodwalls [even those that failed in Katrina] as flood prone. Congress and the Louisiana delegation continues to mess around with the NFIP include the HOUSE passing a freeze on rate increases that the Senate may or may not take up.

Bottom line is that NOLA if ever the target of a direct hit by a CAT 3,4,or 5 Hurricane event might well be an afterthought of history. Some estimates that Katrina outlays in the Gulf Coast states exceed now or will exceed $120B. How much of this siphoned off in waste, fraud, abuse unknown but DHS OIG has not done a good job of policing Katrina outlays to protect the Federal Fisc.

One thing that could be done is abandon New Orleans as a PORT. How? Allow the mainstem Mississippi river to flow through the Atchfalya Basis [sic] which it wants to do except prohibited by the operation of the OLD RIVER CONTtMiss

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 29, 2013 @ 7:43 am

THE OLD RIVER CONTROL STRUCTURE! This structure maintained and protected by USACOE is largely a political decision not a flood control decision. The structure will fail at some point despite USACOE efforts.
IF the ORCS fails or is opened as it is periodically in highwater when the Mississippi River floods then the river diverts with one consequence being the destruction and flooding of Morgan City Louisiana. This is a political choice not an engineering choice.

And just for the record the mainstem Mississippi River has wandered for its Gulf of Mexico outlet from the Texas Border to the State of Mississippi River border in the last 5000 years.

A huge Hispanic influx since Katrina has changed the dynamics of politics in NOLA. Many black refugees from Katrina [perhaps as many as 100,000] have departed the NOLA area never to return.

Hoping this info of some utility.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 29, 2013 @ 8:10 am

For background in some detail see John McPhee’s THE CONTROL OF NATURE and John Barry’s RISING TIDE!

N.B. The mainstem Mississippi largely leveed from St. Louis to New Orleans. Built with WPA labor and dollars to some degree. Could not be reproduced today under any circumstances and perhaps not even repaired or rebuilt after damages!

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