NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It was about a week ago when a summer shower forced New Orleans residents to struggle through floodwaters on their way home.
“The goal of today is to explain to residents the true situation of what we’re faced with,” said Mayor Latoya Cantrell.
The mayor alongside leaders at the Sewerage and Water Board and the Army Corps of Engineers talked about the current status of the city’s drainage system and what needs to be done. The infrastructure to-do list is lengthy: from cleaning underground canals, cleaning the city’s 72 thousand catch basins, increasing green infrastructure, dozens of both city and SELA road and drainage projects. The concern: How much will it all cost?
“We’re being proactive every step of the way but it does cost money expertise and time,” said Cantrell.
The executive director of the sewerage and water board, Ghassan Korban says they too are collaborating with the city and the army corps to improve the utility. He pointed to their work tunneling through the Lafitte Canal where they pulled a Katrina car from blocking the canal.
He says they pulled more than 500 tons of trash from the canal, but there’s still an estimated buildup of 20,000 tons of trash remaining.
“That requires so much money that now we wait to see how to prioritize funding and available money to get rid of those 20,000 tons,” said Korban.
Korban says the utility stayed afloat with help from the mayor’s fair share initiative. The initiative will take money from the city’s hospitality industry to benefit city services. He says they’re already starting to investigate other canals throughout the city, and so far there are no major impediments.
“We have to lay our eyes on this so for certain we can say there’s a problem or we can move on and focus on other projects,” said Korban.
Korban wants to create a master plan that will quantify the costs for all desired drainage projects. The cost estimation of such a plan is unknown but expected to be exorbitant. Both the mayor and Korban underlined the city’s need for more funding.
“Basically touch every piece of infrastructure to quantify the cost associated,” said Korban.
“The city’s never had a dedicated maintenance fund, this also speaks to asking the public to approve a 3 mill dedicated to infrastructure in our city,” said Cantrell.
Cantrell says the city needs a maintenance fund, and when asked about the potential for an additional drainage fee or millage she said it’s a conversation she won’t take off the table.
“Is it something the city council and allow them to do or is it a vote to go to the people, I’m looking at all these things but we’re wanting to be intentional about the steps we’re taking,” said Cantrell.
As for the SELA projects, both the army corps of engineers and the sewerage and water board said the projects did not contribute to the flooding many saw uptown and downtown.