Since Hurricane Katrina pushed a monster storm surge into Louisiana and Mississippi, we've been hearing a lot about the superior flood protection in the Netherlands.
This week, our Senator Mary Landrieu took 50 elected representatives and decision makers over there to see how it's done. They're getting the grand tour of that nation's state-of-the-art flood protections, looking for the magic formula they can take back to the US.
But the so-called "Dutch Solution" is really quite simple.
The Dutch are neither smarter nor more innovative than us. They have the same science and engineering we have here in the US. They use the same kinds of computers and design software as we do. Their flood protection consists of levees and gates, and ours does, too. Wouldn't you know it, water weighs 62.43 pounds per cubic foot in both Holland and America!
There's only two things different.
First, they set a high standard for protection. While we Americans plan to defend our coast from a 100-year event, the Netherlands builds to repel a 10,000-year storm surge. If you think about it, 1 in 100 is simply not good odds.
Second, they fund their projects to the teeth. The Times-Picayune reports that the Netherlands spends about $1.2 billion annually on maintenance of their system. The US provides about $150 million on the Gulf Coast. Clearly, the Dutch put their money where their mouth is. Are you paying attention, Congress and Mr. President?
So let's cut the dog and pony show.
Over 1,300 Americans are dead because of half-hearted measures. Are we going to prevent another catastrophic event by pledging to build and maintain significant hurricane protection for the Gulf Coast? And are we going to pledge the money and resources to make it happen?
The answer isn't in the Netherlands, it's in Washington, D.C.