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December 2005 » Letters
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Positive vibe from Iraq

I thoroughly enjoyed Blake Henderson, P.E.’s article (October 2005) about his company’s work in Baghdad. It was so refreshing to read after [hearing] all of the negativity that is coming from Iraq.

Charles A. Stiles
Cleveland

 

Consider some facts

Before we commit ourselves to a projected $200 billion cost to rebuild New Orleans, let us consider some sobering facts: According to the University of New Orleans (UNO), "By the year 2100, the city of New Orleans may be extinct, submerged in water." Shea Penland, Ph.D., and fellow scientists at UNO have spent a combined 40 years in studying the southern coast of Louisiana. "We have the greatest coastal land loss problem in North America. This is more than a serious problem … It’s a catastrophic one. We’re living on the verge of a coastal collapse," warns Penland.

According to UNO, from 1930 to 1990, the Mississippi River Delta lost more than 1,000 square miles of land. Over the last 50 years, land loss rates accelerated from 10 miles to 40 miles per year by the 1970s. Coastal Louisiana is poised to lose more than 10,000 acres per year for the foreseeable future.

Roy Dokka, Ph.D., a geology professor at Louisiana State University and the head of the Louisiana Spatial Reference Center, stated, "Coastal Louisiana is sinking under its own weight … the ground is ultimately going to go under." According to Dokka and fellow scientists, about 15,000 square miles of land in southern Louisiana will be at or below sea level.

Also, the American Society of Civil Engineers has stated that "by most estimates, coastal Louisiana is losing as much as 35 square miles of land per year to subsidence." The option and cost to rebuild New Orleans from the ground up is astronomical.

And do we (the taxpayers) want to invest such huge sums of money into a sinking land mass without any guarantee that nature will not ultimately take its course? The other option I see is to let nature take its course. Once the silt and nutrients flow into the coastal areas from the Mississippi River, nature will start to replace the eroded soils and slowly revitalize the southern coastline of Louisiana.

As a civil engineer with over 30 years experience in the design and construction of flood control works … I have learned that nature is very unforgiving when man gets in her way.

Marco J.Sortillon, P.E.

 

I enjoy Alfred R. Pagan, P.E., P.L.S.’s columns in CE News. I wanted to point out that the chart he cited from the New York Times only shows the funding for the Lake Pontchartrain Corps requests (October 2005). There were other monies appropriated for New Orleans, including the West Bank and vicinity. A more complete picture of the funding can be found in a Congressional Research Report on the levees and floodwalls available at www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22238.pdf (see page CRS-5).

Also, some of the money appears to have been spent by the Levee Board on other projects such as the Mardi Gras fountain and other projects that are not exactly related to the levees’ primary role of flood protection. (See the MSNBC.com report "Is the Orleans Levee Board doing its job?" which is available at www.msnbc.msn.com/ id/9342186/print/1/displaymode/1098/.) Boyd Allen Bonita Springs,Fla Thoughts on billing I just read Alfred R. Pagan, P.E., P.L.S.’s column in the September issue of CE News ("Billing for engineering consulting services") as I do every month. It was very interesting.

In another life (earlier in my career) and occasionally in this one, I have had occasion to work for a few of those "harassed widows" about whom he wrote.

Typically, I was called on by the attorney as an expert witness.

It was and continues to be my practice to charge my full rate, regardless of the circumstances of the client, since my client is the attorney, who usually is working on a contingency plus expenses arrangement, or on a retainer plus hourly one. I know few, if any, attorneys who treat construction cases as potential "charity" cases.

I do not believe it is hard-hearted to charge $150 to $200 per hour when other professionals (including attorneys, doctors, appraisers, et cetera) are charging $400 per hour or more. It is unfortunate that an engineer’s worth has never been commensurate with his or her skill, commitment, and level of risk. We must do it because we love it.

Thank you for interesting and educational reading.

Edward J.Kant, P.E.

 

Bonita Springs, Fla.

Lean beats green

My feedback per Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.’s request regarding sustainable design (November 2005, page 6, "Sustainable design hits the mainstream ... or not?"): This too shall pass.

My customers, who are contractors and turn-key constructors in commercial and heavy construction and tract builders, are not interested in the subject of sustainable (nor of "green"). They will not take the time to either study it (to know it) nor pay for it. And neither will their buyers, who are mostly ex-patriots with cash and no particular interest in how our country survives, merely if it does.

I have been in construction since 1948; I’ve not seen it all, nor done it all.

But one thread runs through everything I’ve worked on, and that is cost.

Bookkeepers rule and "lean" beats "green" anytime and everywhere.

Ramon J.Cook,P.E.
Texas


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