MRGOing, GOING, GONE?
PREMIERES SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20 AT 7PM ON WYES-TV/CHANNEL 12
The images were seen worldwide, the City of New Orleans and neighboring coastal parishes underwater due to Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. Lives were lost, communities ruined. But the devastation had been predicted.
The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet – MRGO – began in the mid-20th century as a navigational channel, a short cut to the port of New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Instead MRGO contributed to the loss of the ecosystem that historically protected coastal communities and the city of New Orleans from storm surge devastation.
MRGO-ING, GOING, GONE? focuses on the lessons learned from MRGO which contributed to the loss of valuable cypress swamp that for centuries had served as a buffer to storm winds and high water. The history of debates surrounding the channel is outlined by Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Bob Marshall who describes how the environmental predictions began with MRGO’s inception, becoming more precise as time went on. Marshall also talks to Sherwood ‘Woody’ Gagliano, one of the first scientists to sound the alarm about coastal loss and investigate its causes.
The film tracks the timeline of efforts to close the channel by state and federal agencies. Former Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation director Carlton Dufrechou notes that the channel had been ordered to close by the end of the 1990s but further interviews with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives and Port of New Orleans President Gary LaGrange reveal how the timing of MRGO’s closure intertwined with a battle over proposed locks in the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal, commonly known as the Industrial Canal. MRGO remained open and then Katrina struck. The delay proved to be disastrous. ” Not only that, people’s lives were lost,” laments Gagliano.