'Crown' of the Uptown neutral ground causes flooding concern

Drainage project on Napoleon Ave nears conclusion
Published: Apr. 22, 2016 at 10:20 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2016 at 11:24 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The construction site taking up a large chunk of Napoleon Ave should disappear soon, but some people believe it might not be gone for long.

Workers will finish an Uptown drainage project planned in the 90's in a matter of months. The focus is the neutral ground on Napoleon between St. Charles and South Claiborne.

"It's been about four years of miserable living," said Kenny Reine, who lives in the neighborhood.

The drainage project, borne out of the May 1995 flood, took decades to plan and build and is almost complete. The corps is making the median a crown, giving it a center more elevated than the curbs of the street. However, if it were up to water management experts, the crown idea would have been scrapped a long time ago.

"It seems to be a done deal at this point. I don't know how much wiggle room there is for change," said Dana Eness, Executive Director of The Urban Conservancy. "The more we can capture the water in place the better. Concave, rather than crown, is better for holding that water, slowing it down and keeping it in place."

Eness says the group has learned over time that water needs to be held where it falls. Letting it run to storm drains is sometimes why street flooding occurs.

"The convex, or crown, was what was there prior to the the construction and that's what we're authorized to do. Return it to the condition prior to the construction," said Rene Poche with the Corps of Engineers.

"It's not just the crown that's concave, but also the street surface. All of the runoff will go off the road into the storm drain, none in the neutral ground," said Nathan Lott of the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative.

Councilwoman Stacy Head is pushing for new ideas in managing water.

"The lesson I take from this 'status quo neutral ground' is we need to pay close attention to projects designed today that will be coming to fruition in five years or ten years time," Head said.

In the meantime Napoleon resident Kenny Reine is ready to get his life back to normal after years of construction.

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