Gov. Edwards: $20 million to be sent to New Orleans for infrastructure work

Gov. Edwards: $20 million to be sent to New Orleans for infrastructure work

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Inspections of the New Orleans’ underground canals are costly, according to the Sewerage and Water Boards, and while they utility continues to target suspected problem areas, only so much can be done.

But, Governor John Bel Edwards said $20 million will be headed to the city in a matter of days, as part of the Fair Share Agreement. However, the governor said that initial funding will largely go toward Sewerage and Water Board bills.

“Certain vendors are going to be paid, certain accounts are going to be brought current, which is obviously helpful, because it will take a lot of the stress of off the Sewerage and Water Board’s system, and allow them to take a deep breath, and then hopefully focus on some of the challenges that remain,” Edwards said.

The additional millions that will roll in later under that agreement will go toward improving infrastructure needs.

“At the end of the day, we expect the full $50 million in upfront funding to be available, and then we will have about $26 million recurring because of the legislation that was passed in the session this year that I signed into law, which is going to be very helpful to keep the Sewerage and Water Board moving forward,” Edwards said.

Ghassan Korban -- Sewerage and Water Board’s executive director -- said the first of the money will go toward the utility’s debt and is just a small part in helping to improve the city’s infrastructure.

And, it still has a very long way to go, which is evident from what was recently found in an underground canal at the Lafitte Greenway and Jefferson Davis Parkway. Sewerage and Water Board crews spent the day cleaning it out after pulling a car from it last week.

Korban said their underground inspection will include three miles to drainage pump seven in City Park. He said that process alone will cost over $100,000.

“We’re taking a lot of steps to better the protection of the Downtown and the city and reduce the risk, but things take funding and takes time," Korban said. "That’s what we’re grappling with, in terms of priorities, what do you pay attention to and when?”

Considering the recent flooding in parts of New Orleans FOX 8 asked Korban if there is a push to inspect even more of the city’s underground canals to check for additional blockages.

“Again, you can only do so much with capacity, with funding, again were targeting the areas where we are experiencing new issues such as Downtown while not ignoring the city,” Korban said.

New Orleans’ Deputy CAO of Infrastructure, Ramsey Green, said the Fair Share Agreement will also eventually provide resources to attack catch basins and smaller lines within the drainage system.

“At a pace that hadn’t been done before you know, getting that money which is still in process, it’s a very complicated process, but, getting that money was a significant win for all of infrastructure in this city but also a significant first step,” Green said.

Sewerage and Water Board officials said they are working to determine the cost of cleaning up additional underground canals, but said the amount of debris found will impact that number.

Beau Tidwell, Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s spokesman, issued the following statement regarding the funding:

“As stated throughout the legislative session: our priority is addressing immediate needs at the Sewerage and Water Board. The $20M referenced in the Governor’s comments is part of the one-time funding needed by the S&WB to pay vendors for work that has already been completed. These funds are one part of the larger Fair Share package secured to address vital infrastructure needs. We remain grateful to all of our state and local partners who made this effort possible, and look forward to delivering real results for the people of New Orleans.”

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