Sewerage & Water Board officials still don’t know what’s causing rain to back up and flood the downtown area, even after examining most of the major underground canals nearby.
The public utility began looking at the canals for blockages after an Aug. 26 deluge flooded many parts of the city, with the downtown area hit particularly hard. But after sending crews to walk through three of the four major pathways that allow water to be pumped out the Central Business District, the S&WB hasn’t found any major blockages, Executive Director Ghassan Korban told a City Council committee on Wednesday.
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“We’ve kind of ruled those out, almost,” Korban said at a Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee meeting focused on problems that might be causing the flooding.
The decision to look at the downtown canals came after the S&WB pulled a car and other debris out of an underground canal near the Lafitte Greenway earlier this month. There was 22,000 tons of debris causing a major blockage in the 2.5-mile-long canal and it will cost about $10 million to clear it, Korban said.
About 950 tons have been removed so far, he said.
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But while the Lafitte Canal includes an open-air section that could allow large debris to enter the underground segments, the downtown canals are completely covered. That means only relatively small debris would be able to get in through catch basins, Korban said.
With the canals largely crossed off the list of potential causes, officials do not yet have answers for why the CBD has been seeing more frequent flooding, with some areas inundated four times over the course of the summer.
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The next phase of the investigation will see the Department of Public Works look into the smaller pipes that lead from catch basins to the canals and there’s some indication that those pipes could be a bottleneck.
Department of Public Works Director Keith LaGrange said Wednesday that crews have been looking at pipes on St. Charles Avenue. The pipes are only 10 inches in diameter which may be inadequate for the area’s needs.
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New Orleans is a city often inundated by water and, just as often, a city frustrated in its attempts to deal with it.