Business and political leaders joined with Dutch water experts in recommending a plan that revamps the way the New Orleans region deals with storm water. It requires a major shift in how residents see water inside the levee system.
For decades, New Orleans has pumped floodwater into Lake Pontchartrain as fast as possible. That dries out soil in the city, causing it to sink, which leads to leaky pipes and potholes.
“Water management doesn’t have to look like a wall a pump or a fence," says Mark Davis, director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy.
Instead, he says, well-planned canals and detention ponds can keep more water in the city, without putting property at risk.
"And done well," says Davis, "it can be an asset, an amenity.”
Davis is one of the authors of a report from the Greater New Orleans, Incorporated economic development group.
It recommends seven projects costing more than $6 billion for water projects in New Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes.
GNO, Inc. President Michael Hecht says the economic payoff could be double that price tag. More canals mean more valuable waterfront property, for example. Not to mention the jobs to build the system.
“I think that the political will and the community will is going to exist," Hecht said.
Dutch consultant Piet Dircke said at the plan’s unveiling that New Orleans could become an international leader in water management.
“Mayor Bloomberg also looked at New Orleans from that perspective, and also learned that he wants New York to become a water city — a leading water city," Dircke said. "Also in technology and in knowledge and in science and innovations.”
Officials will be seeking federal, state and local funds for the seven demonstration projects. City officials attended the plan's unveiling in support.