By Cameron Livermore
Voice Staff Writer
On Thursday, November 3, a screening of the film â€œHurricane on the Bayouâ€ in Badgley Hall was followed by a discussion of wetlands with local expert Jeff Oveson.
Christy Oliveri, First-Year Experience Coordinator in Student Affairs, said the movie and discussion were part of this year’s Common Reading Program.
The Common Reading Program is reading the book â€œZeitounâ€ by Dave Eggers, a resident of New Orleans who lived through Katrina.
Several dozen students attended the film, which showed how vanishing wetlands increased the destructive strength of Hurricane Katrina.
The film followed several Louisiana residents before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.
After the film, Oveson, Executive Director of Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said that politics interfered with research into Katrina’s extreme destrution.
â€œRepublicans started blaming democrats, and democrats started blaming republicans, and nobody ever talked about the root cause,â€ Oveson said.
In the film, several local conservationists explored the history of vanishing wetlands before Hurricane Katrina. After Katrina, the residents returned to document the storm’s devastation.
A conservationist in the film explained that disappearing wetlands had made New Orleans more vulnerable to hurricanes.
A discussion with Oveson followed the film. Oveson agreed with several points made in the film and explained, in detail, the problems wetlands face.
According to both the film and Oveson, dikes and levees built to contain rivers cause those rivers to quickly carry sediment downstream.
Oveson said that rivers are meant to naturally overflow and deposit sediment, which becomes topsoil. This process helps prevent erosion and bolster existing wetlands.
Likewise, a conservationist in the film explained that dikes along the Mississippi River were stopping sediment from replenishing wetlands. He added that shipping channels containing salt water killed many of the trees and plants that once prevented erosion.
The conservationist in the film also said that planting mangrove stands and removing dikes would help reverse the loss of wetlands.
After the movie, students asked Oveson a number of questions concerning wetland preservation and other environmental issues.
Oveson told the audience that much of the Grande Ronde Valley used to be wetlands. He said that the problems with diking and sediment shown in the film also affect the Grande Ronde Valley.
According to Oveson, the Grande Ronde Valley was once so wet that covered wagons on the Oregon Trail could not travel across it.
When asked what happened to these wetlands, Oveson said they were drained for farming and housing purposes.
The conservationist in the film and Oveson both said that people should not attempt to control rivers completely.
Oveson gave several examples of methods used to preserve wetlands.
He said that floodgates could be used to allow some flooding, and retaining walls could be built to slow erosion.
Oveson mentioned the recent birth of the world’s 7 billionth person during a discussion of humanity’s impact on nature. â€œThere’s a moral and ethical and economical dilemma that your generation is going to face,â€ he said.
â€œI can’t speak for my generation,â€ Oveson said, â€œbut I’d like to apologize for my generation because we’re leaving you with some work to do.â€