Wood, who had developed the now famous A. Baldwin Wood Screw Pump, declined: his work, he believed, was in New Orleans. With Wood’s blessing, the Dutch took his plans for the pump and drained the Zuider Zee, a project that had frustrated them for centuries. Wood drained New Orleans’ back swamp which created the bowl that filled after our levees failed. But unlike in the Netherlands, in South Louisiana no integrated water management plan was developed.
In the thirty months since the New Orleans region’s flood protection system failed, a great deal of good planning has occurred. However, neither water management nor integrated infrastructure plans have been developed. The region remains at risk. This stymies long-term investment.
In January 2006, a delegation of Louisianians went to follow on Wood’s century-old favor. Led by Senator Mary Landrieu, they journeyed to the Netherlands to develop a relationship with the Dutch Government and with Dutch planning and engineering communities. Facilitated by the Dutch Embassy in Washington, cooperation has been established with RIZA (Dutch Institute for Inland Water Management); with NIROV (Netherlands Institute for Spatial Planning and Housing); with universities and academies at Delft, Rotterdam and Amsterdam; with Dutch province, port and water board officials; and with private engineering and design concerns. A network in the Netherlands of civil engineers, landscape architects, urban designers, public works architects and risk managers now stands ready to respond to Louisiana’s needs.
In early March 2008 at the Port of New Orleans Headquarters, a fact-finding forum took place. Organized by the Royal Netherlands Embassy and NIROV, supported by Louisiana Economic Development, and hosted by the Center for Planning Excellence, it was facilitated by the American Planning Association. Dutch planning and policy experts interfaced directly with local, regional and statewide authorities to determine how best to apply Dutch experience to the problems at hand in South Louisiana.
To optimize benefits from this exchange the next step in late spring will be to organize a series of critical-thinking workshops and then a larger, more public forum. The goal is to develop a plan for South Louisiana water management and infrastructure that answers to the dynamic, hybrid landscape that characterizes the New Orleans region. This water plan must be integral to the land use plan.
“Safer, stronger, smarter” must be more than a slogan. Policies and programs to persuade the public and help return people to a safer and more desirable settlement, developed through this knowledge exchange, are essential to a sustainable New Orleans.
Public Works Watermanagement Deptartment, Rotterdam
Univeristy of Toronto
Waterboard de Stichtse Rijnlanden
Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences