Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards, along with local, state, and federal officials, addressed the state of hurricane preparedness for the greater New Orleans area for the 2019 hurricane season that began on June 1. The event was held at the 17th Street Canal Permanent Canal Closure Pump (PCCP) station, one of three state of the art facilities with permanent gates and pumps built to lessen the chance of the same kind of storm surge flooding that New Orleans experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The governor spoke of other gates, pumps and levee improvements that now form the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) – a system that provides the best level of risk reduction the greater New Orleans area has ever had.
“We stand today inside one of the most advanced pump stations in the country,” said Edwards. “It is just one of many parts of larger $14.6 billion storm risk reduction system that also includes 350 miles of levees and floodwalls, 73 non-federal pumping stations, and several major gated structures.”
Outfall canals at 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue were originally built to allow gravity to drain storm water into Lake Pontchartrain. During Katrina the lake reversed the flow, pushing lake water into the canals, overwhelming the system and flooding the city. A similar lack of gated structures on the perimeter of the system, especially on the Industrial Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) and on the West Bank, allowed storm surge to overpower area defenses.
In rebuilding since Katrina, emphasis was put on a perimeter defense with improved levees and levee walls, storm surge barriers, and gates that can be closed when surge threatens the area. The three outfall canals now have permanent canal closures and pumps.
Joe Hassinger, President of the Southeast Flood Protection Authority-East, operator of the new closures and pump stations at 17th Street, Orleans and London Avenues, remarked, “We have come a long way since Katrina. In the last 13 years, we’ve gone from zero pumping capacity to a combined pumping capacity of 24,300 cubic feet per second. That equates to 2.1 billion cubic feet per day, and we can run these pumps continuously for five straight days. These gated structures prevent storm surge from entering into the three outfall canals which reduces flood risk to the citizens of Jefferson and Orleans Parishes.”
The PCCP station isn’t the only massive pumping complex that provides protection to the Greater New Orleans area. On the West Bank, at the confluence of the Harvey and Intracoastal Canals, the West Closure Complex includes one of the largest single pump stations in the world, intended to protect citizens in Jefferson, Orleans, and Plaquemines Parishes. It can pump water out of the system at a rate of nearly 168 million cubic feet per day.
“The West Closure Complex is an impressively strong link in our defensive chain, but there are many links that must be maintained, strengthened and made more resilient,” said Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West Regional Director John Monzon. “We are prepared for this hurricane season, and as always will continue to prepare for future seasons.”
“Despite vastly improved defenses, please Get a Game Plan and be prepared to evacuate when local officials say you should do so,” said James Waskom, Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “Leaving when told to is the best way to save your own life. Meanwhile, all the agencies represented here are working hard to ensure that you’ll have a safe place to come home to.”
“We have made great improvements to the walls, levees and pumps that have been strengthened since Katrina, but we cannot just pump our way out of the problem,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “We are a coastal city, and for us there can be no sustainable future if the land and marsh between us and the rising sea continues to deteriorate. That is a vulnerability we cannot and will not accept. We need to continue to improve our green infrastructure and to find innovative ways to live with water. Our future depends on it.”
Chip Kline, Chairman of the La. Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), reiterated the goals and strategies of CPRA’s Coastal Master Plan in its equal emphasis on ecosystem restoration and protection structures.
“CPRA’s mission is to integrate protection and restoration strategies, and critical to this mission is the need to coordinate our efforts and create strong partnerships with state, local, and federal officials,” said Kline. “The PCCP and other elements of the New Orleans HSDRRS are a prime example of how this coordination can pay off and add positively towards the larger goal of providing our citizens with the protection they deserve.”
Col. Stephen F. Murphy, newly installed as commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District said this is a team he is pleased to join.
“Having taken command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District just two days ago, this is quite an appropriate and welcome to start my tenure here.” said Col. Murphy, “I look forward to working with our state and local partners, as well as other stakeholders, to continue implementing risk reduction projects that will further protect coastal Louisiana and its citizens.”
“Through design and construction, operations and maintenance, the Corps of Engineers, CPRA, the flood authorities on the east and west banks, the mayor’s office, and many other local entities have shown a dedication to protecting the citizens of Greater New Orleans,” said Gov. Edwards.