New Orleans' Sewerage & Water Board gets grant to raise 8 pump stations
By David Hammer
NEW ORLEANS — The federal government is giving New Orleans' Sewerage & Water Board more than $10 million to lift eight pumping stations above the base flood elevation, the height at which the stations should be protected from flooding caused by a 100-year rainfall or storm surge event.
The agency is using advisory base flood elevations, meaning the new heights are based on the potential for flooding with an incomplete levee system.
"These elevation projects can help prevent the accumulation of wastewater that occurs at pumping stations when equipment fails under the pressure of hurricanes and heavy rainfalls," said Paul Rainwater, director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
The money is for eight of New Orleans' 82 sewer pumping stations. All eight have important equipment housed below ground, and seven are entirely subterranean, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Sewerage & Water Board spokesman Robert Jackson said Monday he couldn't determine which pump stations will be affected.
The work of lifting the structures and equipment to higher levels will begin with planning and design, and a historic preservation review, FEMA said in a news release.
The money comes from a pot of about $1.4 billion that FEMA set aside for Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to use on stormproofing or hazard mitigation. Most of the money, about $750 million, has been designated for homeowners who got money from the Road Home program to elevate their rebuilt houses.
The balance of the money had been earmarked for parishes to make houses and other equipment safer in future storms.
As of May 7, FEMA had approved payment of only $394 million of the $1.4 billion set aside for hazard mitigation projects in Louisiana. About $100 million of that is for some 3,400 Road Home applicants who applied through the LRA for reimbursement for elevation expenses. Due to a recent rule change, that dollar amount could soon triple.
The money for the Sewerage & Water Board comes from the parishes' share of the money. Questions remain as to whether the state can find enough takers for all $750 million earmarked for Road Home applicants.
At one point last year, FEMA officials warned that they might try to take back the money if the state didn't start making payments to homeowners. Only a handful of Road Home applicants have received hazard-mitigation money to date, but FEMA is more optimistic now.
"The state has assured FEMA that they plan to see this project through completion," said Bob Josephson, communications director for FEMA's transitional recovery office. "FEMA's goal is to provide the funding to enable the state to build back smarter, safer, and more storm-resistant communities."