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Rebuilding New Orleans: State asks '60 Minutes' to hold report on sinking

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Rebuilding New Orleans:
 
State asks '60 Minutes' to hold report on sinking

11/20/2005, 4:38 p.m. CT
The Associated Press


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State officials have asked the CBS television show "60 Minutes" to postpone Sunday's scheduled segment highlighting a scientist's allegations that New Orleans is sinking and that residents should be induced to leave the city.

Tim Kusky, a professor in the earth sciences department at St. Louis University, asserts on the show that New Orleans residents should "face the fact that their city will be below sea level in 90 years."

He also recommends a "gradual pullout from the city, whose slow, steady slide into the sea was sped up enormously by Hurricane Katrina," according to a preview of the program.

In a letter to CBS, Andy Kopplin, executive director of Louisiana Recovery Authority, asked the network to reconsider airing it.

"We are very concerned about the preview of your story on New Orleans' future posted on the '60 Minutes' website and hope it is not an accurate reflection of your work," Kopplin wrote.

"We know of many scientists and engineers who have spent considerable parts of their careers becoming experts in addressing coastal land loss in Louisiana and who disagree fundamentally with Prof. Kusky's purported comments."

According to Kusky, "New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, sitting off the coast of North America surrounded by a 50- to 100-foot tall levee system to protect the city." He estimates this will happen in 90 years.

"That's the projection, because we are losing land on the Mississippi Delta at a rate of 25 to 30 square miles per year. That's two acres per hour that are sinking below sea level," according to the segment.

Kopplin's letter was attached to a letter from Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who strongly disputes Kusky's conclusions and questions Kusky's credentials.

"I am dismayed by the advance report on the scheduled story on sinking of New Orleans which apparently is based on the perspectives of 'a natural disaster expert,'" he wrote. He also noted he's spent his career working on coastal environmental issues around the country and "until now, I have never heard of Prof. Kusky."

Boesch's letter indicates that Kusky's expertise is in ophiolites — rock sequences that formed on the oceanic edge of tectonic plates in the Archean eon about three billion years ago. He questioned an op-ed piece written for the Boston Globe in September suggesting it's time for New Orleanians to move out of the city, which Boesch said was "replete with serious errors of fact and logic."

"The op-ed reads like an undergraduate paper — a little bit of truth but with a lot of important information missing and not much deep thinking," Boesch wrote.

"I am extremely disappointed that the widely viewed and well regarded '60 Minutes' would base a story on such an incredibly important issue on an 'expert' with so little standing on the subject and not seek the best scientific perspectives available," Boesch wrote.

A telephone call Sunday to CBS seeking comment was not returned.

Nola.com
 
Read also on this issue:

New Orleans Is Sinking

Unfeasibility of Rebuilding New Orleans

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