Fix the pumps

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Last Wednesday, November 1st, the Jefferson Parish Council had the Corps (specifically senior pumping project manager Jim St. Germain) brief them on the status of work at the 17th Street Canal. St. Germain confirmed much of what I've reported here, although his estimate of pumping capacity at 17th Street (4060 cubic feet per second, or cfs) is a little high, considering the Corps has been pulling, replacing - and pulling again - pumps on the west side over the last two weeks. I'd estimate the capacity somewhere around 3500 to 3700 cfs, especially when one takes into account capacity reductions due to vibrations, as mentioned in the Times-Picayune on November 5th:
"While the pumps, which currently are out of the water at all three sites, can be operated, if necessary, before the vibrations are corrected, St. Germain said the capacity of vibrating pumps would be reduced somewhat."

However, that's not what I'd like to emphasize about the meeting.

What is interesting is that the Corps offered to attend any civic association meetings and give updates to neighborhoods any time they're called.

Apparently that willingness to chat doesn't extend to the elected representatives of the people of New Orleans.

This past Monday, November 6, just 5 days after the Corps said they'd talk any time to anyone, the Corps blew off the New Orleans City Council. Specifically, they blew off the Public Works Committee of the City Council.

The Public Works Committee has four members: District B Councilperson Stacy Head (who serves as chair), District A Councilperson Shelley Midura, District D Councilperson Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, and Council President Oliver Thomas. All four attended the hearing. The Committee has jurisdiction over such matters as streets, parking, and drainage. The hearing was intended to be an update to citizens on such matters.

The Sewerage and Water Board was represented by Executive Director Marcia St. Martin and Public Affairs Director Robert Jackson. The Corps did not send anyone.

At the end of Ms. St. Martin's testimony, she said she had to go because she had to get to a meeting with Corps in ten minutes. Stacy Head said the following to Ms. St. Martin:
"I have a message for you to deliver to the Army Corps of Engineers. We have been contacting them about this meeting since 10/23/06. We've left voice messages, emails, faxes, and we've not received the respect of attendance by the Corps. So I'd appreciate if you'd deliver that message, since obviously my messages to them fall on deaf ears. And I just want to thank you so much for giving us the respect as a City Council to come here today."

The Corps, despite having been contacted repeatedly for two weeks, couldn't make time for an hour's worth of testimony about drainage to the elected representatives of the people they are supposedly tasked to protect? Congress has appropriated over $750 million to the Corps since Katrina to be used for drainage repairs and improvements in New Orleans. We, as citizens, have a right to the bare minimum of a status update and the opportunity to have questions answered in a citywide public forum. Especially because the Corps has only appeared in front of the City Council on drainage matters a single time since Katrina: June 22, 2006.


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