By: Claire Byun | Midcitymessenger.com | November 8, 2017
A new drainage project meant to reduce flooding in the Hagan-Lafitte neighborhood is scheduled for next year. The project will replace outdated drainage pipes and add additional rainwater storage, while providing more greenspace for natural stormwater runoff.
Total construction will take 12 months, and crews should start March or April of next year. Green infrastructure is needed along the city’s lowest-lying areas to “complement” the drainage systems already in place, Charles Allen, resilience outreach manager, said.
We love this community, we love this city … but, if we’re going to continue to survive and sustain life here, we’re going to have to deal with rainwater differently than we have in the past,” Allen said.
The project includes new underground pipes running into the St. Louis Canal with special rain storage pipes underneath Easton Park. Contractors will install flood gates along the canal to prevent water pouring into the streets during a large storm, though the Easton Park storage will be available to soak up any remaining water, principal project consultant Dan Grandal, of design firm Stantec, said.
Though the construction schedule has yet to be finalized, the project’s contract requires work on Easton Park to be completed before any other work is started. This limits the disruptions in the park, which Grandal estimates should take about three months.
“[The park] will actually be better because it’s going to drain better, so you won’t have standing water after a rain,” he said.
During heavy rainfall events, stormwater backs up in the large pipes under Orleans Avenue and floods the streets of the surrounding neighborhoods. The project area is at the end of the system and has some of the lowest elevations in the basin. This combination results in frequent flooding and subsidence of roads over time – especially evident after the August flooding.
Undersized catch basin pipes will also be updated, though not every road within the project’s boundaries will be touched, Grandal said.
Crews will also build up green infrastructure, including pervious sidewalks and “rain gardens” scattered throughout the neighborhood. The gardens utilize native plants – mostly small grasses tolerant of flooding and drought – to soak up water before it inundates the drainage system, Grandal said. The gardens will be constructed along existing sidewalks, which won’t narrow the street or take away parking.
Located between the Lafitte Greenway and Orleans Avenue, the 33-acre Hagan-Lafitte site is comprised of 23-blocks of residential and commercial properties stretching from Bayou St. John to Broad Street. Residents along St. Peters and Toulouse streets, from North White to Hagan streets, will be the most impacted by construction.
Parts of the Lafitte Greenway will be dug up while crews replace pipes, but temporary detours will be in place. Some parking along streets will also be restricted depending on the construction schedule, which will be hammered out at a January public meeting, Allen said.
Actual construction doesn’t cover the intersection of Broad and Lafitte street, which was devastated by the August floods. The impacts of the Hagan-Lafitte project, however, should result in up to four feet less flooding for areas near the Broad Street pumping station, Grandal said.
“The fact that we’re taking this whole basin out and draining into the canal, suddenly you’ll have more [drainage] capacity,” he said.
The project is funded through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), which was awarded to the city to implement a series of drainage upgrade and green infrastructure projects. The $5.3 million grant also covers the Gentilly Resilience District project.
Project design is complete and construction bidding is scheduled throughout the next two months. There will be a second public meeting with the contractor in January.