Flooding, Budgets, and Family

The Sunken Gardens on Canal Blvd. are a good example of cost-effective green infrastructure that helps retain stormwater. On Tuesday night, I attended New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s District A Budget Listening session. GRN’s Michelle Erenberg and I were both there as District A residents. I live Uptown and she lives in Lakeview, but we both have concerns about flooding in our respective neighborhoods. Upon arriving, I saw Michelle right away (there was a huge crowd). Michelle told me that her father just had a heart attack and would likely undergo bypass surgery in Maryland. Her mind was occupied with whether she could go to Maryland and what she needed to do. She had a really good reason not to stick around the hearing for hours.I said to her, “There are 10 minutes before the hearing starts, and all the city department heads are up there at the front of the room. Go find one. Tell them about your dad and that you need to go, but also why you came and why you have something important to say.” At the time, I wasn’t sure if she had been able to talk to anyone. When the meeting started, the second name called to testify was Michelle’s. Mayor Landrieu stepped up, took the microphone, and explained that Michelle’s father was ill and she had to leave earlier. However, she wanted everyone to know that she is concerned about flooding; that we could be using our money in a much smarter way to live with and utilize water instead of just pumping it out, and that a good example is the Sunken Garden on the Canal Blvd neutral ground in Lakeview.So Michelle, you did what you needed to do for your family and as a result the Mayor delivered your message to everyone. I hope Mayor Landrieu and the other officials who were there take the comments from Michelle, and all of the rest of us who spoke up about flooding at the hearing to heart.Right now, New Orleans’ main strategy for dealing with stormwater is to pump it out as fast as we can back into the lake, but that’s not a long-term solution. Introducing more water back into the water table will help reduce the subsidence, or sinking, of our soil, which in turn will help address the rate at which our streets are crumbling and our pipes are leaking. Plus, slowing down and retaining stormwater can take the pressure off ailing, unsustainable drainage infrastructure – leading to reduced flooding in our neighborhoods. With millions of dollars in Hazard Mitigation and FEMA funds currently available to the city, we can’t afford not to make an investment in sustainable, green stormwater practices.There are several more budget hearing scheduled over the next week and half, and I’d encourage you to head out to one near you to speak out for a Flood Less New Orleans. Check out Jonathan’s recent blog for a full list of the scheduled hearings. And best wishes to Michelle and her family in these difficult times.Harry Lowenburg is GRN’s Gulf Fish Forever Campaign Organizer.

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