Fix the pumps

Thursday, June 07, 2007


A little election-driven spat has been going between Orleans and Jefferson Parishes for the last few weeks. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, the man who sent JP's pump operators 100 miles away during Katrina - causing millions of dollars of damages when those pumps didn't run (there was no provision for remote operation) - wants the Corps to run PS#6 on the 17th Street canal if the gates drop. Orleans Parish's Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB), which has owned and operated PS#6 since it was built over 100 years ago, is obviously opposed.

Broussard's made a lot of noise and even complained to the governor. He's up for reelection this fall. As a result of his complaint to the governor, a meeting was held yesterday. The Times-Picayune reports on it today.

But first, let me remind you of part of my May 11 post, in which I was writing about the Corps communication plan (and the Times-Picayune's coverage thereof):
"Also missed in all the glorification of the Corps' communications plan is this actual quote from the Manual:

'One Corps of Engineers radio will be furnished to the S&WB for communications in addition to having the Canal Captains stationed at their respective S&WB pump stations.'

Yep, that's right: the agency in charge of pumping gets all the benefits of a single radio to communicate with the Corps."

Thankfully, this has now been rectified. According to today's Times-Picayune (in an article with no attribution other than "East Jefferson Bureau"):
"The Army Corps of Engineers agreed Wednesday to place two-way radios in pump stations along the 17th Street Canal to coordinate drainage into the waterway when the corps closes its floodgate for a hurricane, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said.

The radios, Broussard said, will allow corps officials at the gate to instruct pump operators at three stations on shutting down their pumps. The goal is to keep water in the canal from overflowing into nearby neighborhoods.

The move came as a small compromise to Broussard's request that the corps take formal control of the pumping stations -- one owned by Jefferson and two by the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board -- during a gate closure."

This was a massive hole in the communications plan that everyone (including the Times-Picayune) had ignored until now. I'm glad to see it plugged. It's too bad it took over a year, but I guess you take successes where you can get them.

The legal agreement which governs who operates PS#6 (as well as a bunch of other things about the floodgates) is called Supplemental Agreement 2A. It was signed by the Corps, the Orleans Levee District, the East Jefferson Levee District, Jefferson Parish, and the City of New Orleans in late December. It lays out responsibility for operation of PS#6 (which is owned by Orleans), giving it (of course) to the S&WB in paragraph VI:
"The Sewerage and Water Board shall ... operate and maintain approach channels, drainage structures, drainage ditches, or canals under the control or within the geographical jurisdiction of the Parish of Orleans"

Supplemental Agreement 2A was part of the third revision of the legal framework delineating the responsibilities of each governmental body involved with the floodgates. That framework is called a Cooperative Agreement (or "CA"). Thanks to a FOIA request, I got the original and the two subsequent Supplemental Agreements ("SA") posted to the IPET website:

Original CA (October, 2005, covers all three canals)
SA 1 (January, 2006, covers only London Ave. & Orleans Ave. canals)
SA 1A (December, 2006, covers only London Ave. & Orleans Ave. canals)
SA 2 (January, 2006, covers only 17th Street canal)
SA 2A (December, 2006, covers only 17th Street canal)

The agreement was split up in order to recognize that Jefferson Parish only has an interest in the 17th Street canal, not London or Orleans.

SA 1A and SA 2A both make revisions in the language to the January agreements which reflect all the changes to the PIR's during 2006. SA 2A also clarifies the language regarding operation of the drainage pumping stations. There are other changes that I don't quite understand because I'm not a lawyer.

Should Pres. Broussard continue to attempt to get the Corps into PS#6 (an extremely unlikely event), it is SA 2A which will have to be renegotiated. Given Orleans Parish's (which includes the S&WB) status as a co-equal party to the agreement, as well as the S&WB's strongly stated opposition to any relinquishment of control of PS#6 (and the I-10 station), this renegotiation has a possibility of success that can be termed beyond remote.


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