Accountability, transparency essential for new drainage pump repairs


Daisy Rymer | Associate Artist

New Orleans saw flooding all over the city due to damaged drainage pumps last summer. The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans plans to fix the drainage system in the city this year, but it must do so quickly and efficiently. In addition, the funding for this project must be appropriated and used wisely.

The drainage pumps in New Orleans are used to take stormwater and divert it to nearby water bodies to prevent the city from flooding. This infrastructure is necessary for New Orleans because most of the city is below sea level, and water cannot drain naturally to lower bodies of water like most cities.

The old pumps, however, were decades old and already in need of maintenance. The damage in the drainage pumps was an indicator that the city needs a drastic update in stormwater infrastructure.

As the SWBNO embarks on its new project, it is critical that the money be allocated properly and the members of the board are transparent about the process. So far, the city knows that $27 million will be coming from bonds issued by the board for drainage repairs. As it turns out, that is not going to be enough for these projects.

In order to complete the pump repairs, SWBNO needs approximately $83 million, leaving it $56 million short. According to Katie Dignan, a board official, there is no set revenue stream for the $56 million still needed to repair the sewer system in New Orleans. It is unreasonable to promise reconstruction of the drainage pumps if the SWBNO will not even tell us if it has the funding or where the funding is coming from.

This would not be the first time the SWBNO has questionably used funding for repairs. The Federal Emergency Management Administration granted the board $1 million in federal grant money to repair the drainage infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina. Earlier this year, the federal government began an audit investigating whether or not those funds were used properly.

All of this brings into question whether the city can trust the SWBNO to be accountable for the safety of the city – as long as flooding is still a concern, it is a matter of safety. Neighborhoods all over New Orleans have waited long enough for the SWBNO to fix the drainage infrastructure. Residents should not merely be waiting for the pumps to be fixed in hopes that there will not be a major storm before then.

The SWBNO must be transparent about the funding it has and how it will use these funds. If the board does not have the money, it is unfair to promise repairs to the city. If the board cannot be honest about the source of the funding or its allocation, then New Orleanians must hold the board accountable for its transparency, or lack thereof.

It is bad enough that the city gets flooded with water. It does not need to be flooded with empty promises as well.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Daniel is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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