New Orleans 10 years on from Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans 10 years on from Hurricane Katrina is at watershed point in the management of its urban stormwater. Although the city’s century old drainage system will continue to be the primary means for draining the city into the foreseeable future, the city is poised to add a significant component to its drainage infrastructure: green infrastructure.

New Orleans 2030: laying the foundation for green infrastructure

In August 2010, the City of New Orleans adopted its first master plan: New Orleans 2030. The master plan provides the basis for future public policy and decision-making regarding land use, development, zoning, city capacity expenditures and other decisions that will shape the city’s future over the next 20 years. Under the plan’s Living with Water and Natural Hazards, the plan recommended:

Developing a Stormwater Management Plan that will identify best management practices and establish minimum requirements to control the adverse effects of stormwater runoff for all new developments and capital improvements along with a set of actions to achieve this including: convening a working group of city agencies, including the Department of Public Works, the Sewage and Water Board, Department of Safety and Permits and the Office of Environmental Affairs to co-author the stormwater management plan; and

Creating a stormwater management unit in the Sewage and Water Board to explore innovative stormwater management techniques including the use of playgrounds, parks and grounds to retain water during heavy rainstorms, replacing of most lawns in neutral grounds and street swales with shrubs and groundcover to control and filter runoff, and retrofit existing public buildings and design new public buildings to include stormwater management best practices including the use of pervious materials on green roofs.

New Orleans' pursuit of green infrastructure

New Orleans’ pursuit of green infrastructure

The Greater New Orleans Water Plan incorporating green infrastructure

In September 2013, Greater New Orleans released The Greater New Orleans Water Plan. The plan is a vision for long-term urban water management that addresses groundwater and stormwater as critical factors in shaping a safe, more livable and economically vibrant Southeast Louisiana. The plan proposes strategies of “living with water” by implementing green infrastructure to address flooding caused by excess runoff and subsidence caused by pumping of stormwater.

New Orleans’ Green Infrastructure Plan

In 2014, New Orleans launched its Green Infrastructure Plan: a formal commitment by the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) and the City of New Orleans to explore and pursue the inclusion of green infrastructure. As part of the Green Infrastructure Plan the SWBNO will provide funding of $500,000 per year, averaged over the next five years, to be used for green infrastructure projects and activities carried out under the plan. The projects will be demonstration projects composed of a single or combination of green infrastructure components ranging from rain gardens to tree planting and bioswales. In addition, the projects will provide education to the entire community of young and old, private citizens, professionals and commercial vendors.

In order to implement green infrastructure projects, the following objectives must be incorporated in the plan’s development and implementation to receive funding:

  • Identifying and selecting projects that embody the principles of living with water including selecting projects that meet social, economic and environmental criteria or the “triple bottom line” for the City and its residents
  • Implementing projects that comply with green infrastructure design criteria including being readily adaptable to other locations, retaining at a minimum the first inch of stormwater on site within a 24-hour rain event and utilization of native plants
  • Developing partnerships to implement a regional approach to green infrastructure including partnerships between public and private agencies to work collaboratively on green infrastructure projects
  • Developing community outreach programs to provide education on green infrastructure practices and include the community in the decision-making process to ensure sustainable projects
  • Inclusion of performance measures, including the monitoring of water quality, to help evaluate the selection of future proposed green infrastructure projects

Current green infrastructure projects in New Orleans

To date, some of the green infrastructure projects that have been awarded funding include:

Green Infrastructure Project, Central City In coordination with New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, Land Trust for Louisiana, Professional Ground Maintenance, Inc., Hike for KaTREEna, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Global Green, and Louisiana Urban Stormwater Coalition, this project involves the installation, maintenance, and monitoring of a rain garden on a double lot, as well as educational outreach.

Green Keepers In coordination with Dana Brown & Associates, Evans & Lighter Landscape Architecture, Spackman, Mossop & Michaels, The Urban Conservancy, Colectivo, and the Magellan Street Garden, Green Keepers is a new educational series about green infrastructure that targets both the community as well as professionals. The series discusses how to best live with stormwater, rather than in spite of it, by using green infrastructure practices

Hollygrove Greenline – A Water Management and Community Education Initiative

In coordination with Carrollton-Hollygrove CDC, Dana Brown & Associates, Engineers Without Borders, and Twin Shores Landscape & Construction Services, this project is the design, implementation, maintenance, and monitoring of a unique Sunshower Canopy roof and bladder system to collect rainwater and distribute to nearby trees and rain garden.

The take-out

Cities can utilize a portfolio of tools including funding, partnerships and public awareness and outreach programs to implement, and eventually mainstream, green infrastructure projects.

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Author: Robert C. Brears

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