President Joe Biden is pushing his next big spending plan as a response to decades of deferred investment in the country’s aging critical infrastructure. And nothing says deferred investment like New Orleans’ troubled Sewerage & Water Board, which is responsible for the city’s water, sewer and drainage operations.
Biden plans to stop by the S&WB’s Carrollton Plant Thursday during his first swing through Louisiana as president, on a two-stop tour that will also include hurricane-ravaged Lake Charles. He’ll see the utility's water purification equipment, and also the creaky power turbines that provide power when they’re working, which isn’t often enough. Fully fixing the system, parts of which date back a century, would cost billions, so the visit is a welcome sign that the water board is on the administration’s radar along with road projects such as removing the Interstate 10 overpass down Claiborne Avenue.
Equally welcome is the opportunity before Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the water board’s president, to show Biden that nuts and bolts investment can have far-reaching impacts such as keeping the city from flooding during summer downpours and averting boil water orders.
This will be Cantrell’s first chance to lobby Biden since he’s taken office, after a false positive COVID-19 test kept her out of a White House meeting in February. The episode had to have been deeply disappointing for her, but while the Carrollton Plant doesn’t have the cachet of the Oval Office, the presidential visit presents an even better opportunity for the mayor to convey New Orleans’ vast needs. She’ll just have to ask him to look around; they’ll be right before his eyes.