The goal of a safe and reliable sewer and water system for New Orleans is advanced by a significant investment of federal hazard mitigation funds for an upgrade of the aging east bank main plant.
The City Council approved $141 million for the upgrades and repairs. “This is a critical piece of infrastructure for the city that absolutely needs to be resilient and survive,” said Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant.
All too true.
There are three significant areas where the future economy of New Orleans is dependent on investment now and in a sustained fashion over the future decade.
The Sewerage and Water Board’s improvements that will be funded by new rate increases are part of a long-term growth strategy, because nothing is more basic. Applying the hazard mitigation funds, requiring work at both the state level and by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office, makes the newly approved rate increases go further.
Unquestionably, as the administration and council made clear, the continued investment from rate increases is also necessary. This is just a stretcher of the city’s resources over such a large and long-term rehabilitation project.
The two other areas for the city? One is the diversification of the city’s economy through the increased development of knowledge industries, and another is investment in transportation, to ensure that New Orleans can continue not only as a port city but as a shipping hub over rails and highways.
As with the water pipes, both areas will require increased public investment over a long period of time. At the least, the governor and Legislature need to end the disastrous “deinvestment” in state colleges and universities. High-tech businesses need the intellectual infrastructure just as much as the water pipes.
And long-term planning and financing is required for the kind of urban projects that benefit the greater New Orleans transportation complex.
All these are costly, and cannot be dependent on purely the use of limited sources of federal funding like the hazard mitigation program.