NEW ORLEANS — In September, Greater New Orleans, Inc. released the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan (the Urban Water Plan). The Urban Water Plan directly addresses the problems with the region’s current water management system in an innovative way that will increase quality of life and reduce street flooding, potholes, and damaged infrastructure from subsidence. The Urban Water Plan was designed over the last two years by a team of local, national, and Dutch experts led by New Orleans firm Waggonner & Ball Architects.
The Urban Water Plan details strategies to address flooding caused by the pumping of storm water in St. Bernard parish and the East Banks of Jefferson and Orleans parishes. Implementation of the Urban Water Plan will sustain the ecology and the economic vitality of the region and make Greater New Orleans a more attractive place to live and work for businesses and residents.
“The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan serves a symbiotic dual purpose, simultaneously preserving the value of businesses and communities,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “Implementation of the Urban Water Plan will make Greater New Orleans a better place to live and work, while building our new brand as national “water experts” – something clearly to be in demand in a world of increasing weather volatility.”
“The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, funded by a $2.5 million CDBG-DR grant, charts a course for how to better protect communities and mitigate against future flood risk,” said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Last month the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which I’ve had the honor to chair, released a Rebuilding Strategy that will serve as a model for communities across the country as they adapt to more frequent and severe storms and flooding events. The Urban Water Plan not only aligns with our Rebuilding Strategy but it too serves as a national model for resilience.”
“After working together with a talented team for several years, we are happy to release the Urban Water Plan,” said David Waggonner, Principal at Waggonner and Ball Architects. “We’ve done the math, assessed the problems and drawn opportunities for smart, attractive, sustainable investments. It’s time for Greater New Orleans to move forward as a leading city of the 21st century.”
The Urban Water Plan puts forth seven demonstration projects for implementation in St. Bernard parish and on the East Banks of Jefferson and Orleans parishes. Implementation of the plan will cost $6.2 billion and can be completed over 18 months once financing is secured. Each demonstration project outlined in the plan has a set of potential financing mechanisms associated with its implementation.
Funding options include federal funding through the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. State and local funding options are also available through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, and parish-specific funds.
Implementation of the Urban Water Plan will have approximately $22 billion in economic benefits to the region over 50 years. This includes $8 billion in reduced repetitive flood costs, $2.2 billion in reduced cost of sinking land, $609 million in reduced flood insurance premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, $183 million in increased property values, and $11.3 billion in direct and indirect jobs.
The Urban Water Plan works in tandem with other water management and hurricane and flood protection systems such as wetlands, which serve as the region’s first line of defense, and the levee flood protection system, the second line of defense, to create a third line of defense by managing water internally.
A key factor in the creation of the Urban Water Plan is the Dutch Dialogues initiative, sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, the American Planning Association and Waggonner & Ball Architects. Under Dutch Dialogues, American and Dutch experts collaborated to examine the steps needed to rebuild New Orleans’ damaged infrastructure. Dutch Dialogues laid the groundwork for the development of the Urban Water Plan.
The Urban Water Plan was funded by the Louisiana Office of Community Development, Disaster Recovery Unit, through a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development and was administered by GNO, Inc.
“Improving Flood protection in Jefferson Parish is a vital and ongoing effort. Creative and lasting solutions are needed not only to protect the people of our region and prevent subsidence but also to protect and strengthen our economic stability,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young. “In conjunction with both the Louisiana Office of Community Development-DRU and GNO, Inc. the newly introduced Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan seeks to do just that. Public-Private partnerships such as this will be the key to sustainable flood protection as well as fortifying the regional economy.”
“St. Bernard Parish is the owner of hundreds of vacant lots, all because of Hurricane Katrina flooding, and we are looking for ways to use the lots to benefit the neighborhoods in which they’re located,” said St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta. “Learning how to retain and mitigate some of the flooding that we have in neighborhoods will go a long way in improving the quality of life for the area.”
“As we continue to rebuild our city, innovative water management strategies, including the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, will be at the forefront,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “We have an opportunity to create a template for water management that can serve as an international model for resiliency.”
“The people of Louisiana need a new model that allows us to live with water, harnesses opportunities to mitigate flood risks and supports sustainable development,” said U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. “The report released today identifies specific projects in St Bernard, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes that will increase regional resiliency and lay a solid foundation for future economic growth. I commend Waggonner & Ball and the entire team of local, national and Dutch water-management experts that created the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, and I am proud to have helped secure the $2.5 million in federal disaster recovery dollars that made this study possible.
“Reducing the risk of future damage to our communities through forward-thinking land use and water management strategies is critical to Louisiana’s recovery and sustainability, which is why we invested disaster recovery Community Development Block Grant funds in this plan,” said Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development. “We can’t prevent future storms, so it’s critical that we continue to explore smarter ways to make our communities more resilient in the future disasters. Development of this plan is a big step in that direction.”
“Dutch experts came to New Orleans to see what their expertise might contribute to New Orleans’ future,” said Dale Morris, Senior Economist at the Royal Netherlands Embassy. “They immediately saw the need for a more comprehensive approach to water and landscape management. The State of Louisiana and GNOInc seized this opportunity and enabled David Waggonner to assemble a hand-picked, Dutch-US team that has made a huge difference for New Orleans. The Dutch are proud to be associated with helping to secure the future of one of America’s greatest cities.”
“The Sisters of St. Joseph are delighted to have the privilege of collaborating with David Waggonner to bring about this vision for the city we have long called home,” said Sr. Pat Bergen, CSJ. “This gives us the opportunity to use our sacred land, which has laid fallow since Katrina, to fulfill a promise our sisters made to collaborate with others to bring about systemic change around issues affecting our neighbors. We believe this can change the city’s relationship to water by holding and cherishing the water, which had taken our home from us, to provide protection to the homes of others and by inviting others to relate to water as a source of beauty and healing. As a demonstration site our land is already continuing our mission of unity by uniting us to cities near and far which suffer from storms as they call to know more about this wonderful design.” Sister Pat Bergen, Member, Congregation Leadership Team.”
The full plan can be found at www.livingwithwater.com.