Spencer Heinz was able to catchup in today's Oregonian with a ridiculous "scorched earth" policy being carried out along the Columbia under the auspices of FEMA emergency management. It makes things painfully clear how things went so wrong on the government's part after Hurricane Katrina.
Along the Columbia beside Marine drive between Interstate 5 and the Portland Yacht Club, nearly 500 full-size birch trees have already been cut down. Wednesday sawing began on another 120 trees. But late afternoon yesterday, a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop the tree cutting until a hearing on September 28. The injunction was requested by the Bridgeton Neighborhood Association and Columbia Riverkeepers.
The problem, though, is if the trees are left and not cut, FEMA will decertify the levee from its ability to garner flood insurance. And that, in turn, means no federal assistance if the levee were to become breached in a flood. "FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers have argued that storms could blow over bigger trees and tear out roots and theireby loosen and weaken levee soils." You know, cut off your nose before it has a chance to spite your face.
It's bad enough the clearcutting we see driving through the Coast Range - like Sampson after getting his head shaved. But when it happens here in Portland, and out of reasoning that is illogical and arguably even bad ecological science, it makes one want to tip over with anger. Cutting trees makes a river levee safer? Who decided that - Weyerhaeuser? Dick Cheney?
In Spencer's story, a Bridgetown resident named Alise Goforth but it best: "That's what led to the failure of the levees in New Orleans. And it's the same policy that's being applied in Portland."