N.O. Sewerage and Water Board makes investment in "green" projects

Published: Jun. 19, 2014 at 10:36 AM CDT
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Rain is a common occurrence in the area this time of year. It helps gardens grow. Now, more and more gardens are planted to help the city's drainage system.

The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board is involved in efforts to bolster 'green infrastructure.'

"We took the very first steps in awarding funds to five different groups that are going to start green infrastructure programs that are funded by the Sewerage and Water Board," said Joseph Becker, General Superintendent of the Water Board.

Water board members voted Wednesday to award grants to the groups to do more projects utilizing rain water. They will share in nearly $400,000 set aside for such projects this year.

"Capture the rain water that falls on the city of New Orleans and instead of shooting it off into the street and compounding potential flooding, they're going to capture that rain water and they're going to find ways to use that water," said Becker.

The green projects will also have a public education component.

"This is the rest of our bioswale, as you can see it curves around to here," said Alicia Neal, Executive Director of Groundwork New Orleans, one of the five organizations chosen to share in the grants.

Groundwork New Orleans already has a rain garden in the Marigny area.

"It drains storm water from four industrial sized roofs. The water comes down and is slowly putting back into the water table," said Neal pointing to a large pipe strung from a series of rooftops.

The storm water is soaked up by plants in the gardens, but the water does more than feed the greenery.

"It slowly percolates back into the ground to elevate the water tables, to help with subsidence, the cracks you see in the street, the potholes," stated Neal.

Groundwork New Orleans hopes to branch out and turn a vacant lot in the Katrina ravaged lower 9th Ward, which is owned by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, into another 'earth lab.'

"We'll be installing a rain garden and benches, picnic tables, so we want that site to have more access for the community," said Neal.

"These projects are going to impact our need to expand our drainage system. Green infrastructure will reduce the amount of money that we need to spend on our drainage program," Becker further stated.

Becker said the water board has committed $2.5 million over five years for such 'green' projects. He said now that the board has voted to award grants to contract negotiations, the organizations will begin.

He said the projects will be closely monitored by the water board.

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