A new plan for an old problem – flooding in New Orleans

$141 million test program of water gardens planned for Gentilly

December 11, WDSU News

by Jennifer Crockett

Water gardens, big and small, are key to the new concept of living with water in New Orleans. The gardens would give water a place to go even if the city’s pumps are maxed out.

A $141 million federal grant from Housing and Urban Development is funding the pilot program in Gentilly, which has been designated the Gentilly Resilience District. The plan is to divert flooding, improve drainage and avoid further sinking. If it works, planners said New Orleans could manage storms with less street flooding and add drainage that does not contribute to subsidence.

 The largest water garden in Gentilly will be built on a 25-acre lot on Mirabeau where the Sisters of St. Joseph convent used to be located.

“Mirabeau Water Garden is at 90 percent designed today, and we will be moving forward shortly to implementation to get a bid out, construction started, and you’ll start seeing things pop up all around Gentilly,” said Jeff Hebert, vice president for adaptation and resilience at the Water Institute of the Gulf.

Final construction is set for 2019. The project has to be completed by 2022 to comply with the grant. The city’s hazard mitigation funds are also being used to supplement the grant.

If the gardens prove effective, Hebert said a roll-out across the city will follow. The largest project in New Orleans is planned at City Park, which will be similar to the Mirabeau Water Garden. Relief ponds would turn into massive flood basins during rain events and act as water gardens and education centers, year-round.

The project also incorporates residential water gardens. The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority will begin helping low-to-moderate income residents install water gardens at their homes in the coming months. The Urban Conservancy’s Front Yard Initiative Project already has a similar project up and running.

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