In late July, the New Orleans City Council held public meetings on proposed amendments to the city’s Master Plan, which guides land-use and infrastructure policy across Orleans parish. A great deal of public input focused on quality of life and housing affordability. While there was hot debate about the right places for live music and taller buildings, there was widespread understanding that effective stormwater management is in everyone’s best interest. Localized flooding is a threat to a variety of neighborhoods. Conversely, well planned waterfronts and parks are valued amenities that provide both water management and recreation.
Last year, members of the Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans put together a comprehensive set of amendments to help bring the city’s post-Katrina plan up to date. These amendments reflected the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, Resilient New Orleans strategy and changing attitudes about managing stormwater with green as well as gray infrastructure. The wide ranging nature of the amendments — from communicating about residual flood risk to protecting heritage trees — reflects the diversity of expertise within the Water Collaborative.
At the heart of our proposals were a call for major investments in green infrastructure along streets and neutral grounds and a charge to develop long-range, equitable funding strategies for drainage and green infrastructure. The passage of these amendments with unanimous support from City Council is a major policy victory for three-year-old Water Collaborative. It is, however, merely a first step. The next mayor and council will be charged with implementing the plan alongside agencies, the City Planning Commission and Sewerage and Water Board. We will continue to advocate, educate and partner with the public and private sector to make the city safer and more sustainable.