The Greater New Orleans region is defined by our relationship with water, which brings economic and recreational opportunities. However, our abundance of water also brings the challenge of flood risk. Our region experiences two distinct kinds of flooding: smaller-scale, localized flooding from rainfall and the potential for larger-scale flooding from tropical storms. Both kinds of flooding can cause safety concerns and damage to property. Additionally, we experience subsidence (land sinking) which is impacted by how we have historically dealt with our flood risk. Fortunately, we have many options for reducing, or mitigating, our flood risk and increasing our region’s resilience.
New Orleans receives an average of 64 inches of rain every year, a number that might increase as precipitation patterns change. This year, some neighborhoods have already received around 75 inches of rain, and due to the topography of our land much of this stormwater must be pumped into our surrounding water bodies, such as Lake Pontchartrain. When excessive rainfall overwhelms our drainage system, water can back up and cause localized flooding. To reduce localized flooding, we can reduce the burden on our gray infrastructure (including our catch basins, pipes, pumps, and canals) by supplementing it with green infrastructure. These are systems that store, absorb, and filter water using native plants and other elements that slow runoff and allow water to be absorbed into the ground. Examples of green infrastructure include permeable pavement, rain gardens, bioswales, rain barrels, and French drains. The Sewerage and Water Board and City of New Orleans, as well as nonprofit groups and local companies, have begun implementing green infrastructure throughout New Orleans. We need to expand these programs to mitigate the localized flooding still evident in many neighborhoods and to keep up with increasing rainfall.
New Orleans also experiences flood risk from tropical storms. Hurricane season typically runs from June 1 until November 30, and residents are advised to keep close watch on forecasts should storms impact our region. In New Orleans, we are protected to the 1% annual chance flood risk ( aka 100-year storm) by the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRR), a massive system of levees, floodwalls, and a surge barrier. However, residual flood risk remains, which may require evacuation or sheltering in place. In addition to our infrastructure to mitigate storm surge, our natural barriers of wetlands are critically important to reducing our flood risk during tropical storms. Restoration projects in Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan are vital for New Orleans safety in the face of land loss and sea level rise.
The soils in the New Orleans region are prone to subsidence, or land sinking, which is exacerbated by overreliance on our pumping system. When rainwater is not able to infiltrate into the ground due to impervious land cover (such as concrete) and is instead pumped out of the city, the soils dry up and subside. Our soil can be compared to a wet sponge left on the kitchen counter; as it dries, it contracts and shrinks. This causes damage to our streets and homes, and increases our flood risk. In fact, it is a major reason that some neighborhoods now lie below sea level. We cannot reverse all forms of subsidence but we can slow future subsidence associated with the de-watering of soils by actively managing our groundwater, thereby prolonging the life of our infrastructure and addressing flood risk. For more information, please contact Nathan Lott, director of the Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans at [email protected]
The information above was made possible in part by the generous support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Learn more at gnof.org/environment.
It is clear that we need to shift our mindset about stormwater in New Orleans.
So, what should we do moving forward? We need to keep as much water as possible out of our drainage system.
Here are some examples of how to do this.
1. PLANT TREES! Trees drink hundreds of gallons of stormwater daily, with Bald Cypress absorbing up to 880 gallons! The more trees are clustered, the more stormwater they can impact. In fact, can you imagine if we had had a healthy and dense urban forest last Saturday? We have room for one million trees in New Orleans. We could have absorbed hundreds of millions of gallons of water that instead flooded our streets.
2. REMOVE CONCRETE and impermeable surfaces so that water can soak back into the ground and stay out of the drains. The Urban Conservancy’s Front Yard Initiative is a great resource for concrete removal.
3. STORE YOUR WATER. Water detention can take on many forms. One option is “harvesting” your roof water in a rain barrel and reusing it for watering plants. Or you can capture and detain it on your property in a rain garden or bioswale. Check out Green Light New Orleans and ReCharge NOLA for rain barrel resources. If you’re interested in building a stormwater detention landscape, Evans and Lighter, Spackman, Mossop, Michaels, and Dana Brown and Associates are the local landscape architecture firms with extensive “green infrastructure” experience.
More Trees Means Less Flooding
Read Stephanie Bruno’s Advocate article about SOUL and our strategy for reforesting New Orleans!
Call for Block Captains
If you want to see trees in your neighborhood, then consider becoming a block captain! Block captains are vital to shaping the reforestation of their neighborhoods. Being a block captain involves talking to neighbors and asking them to sign up for trees by signing a permit. We are offering a block captain training
Sign up to be a block captain and we’ll contact you soon.
Email Scott with questions.
Advocacy & Policy
SOUL is very excited to announce that its recommendations were accepted into New Orleans’ Master Plan. We are grateful to Cm. Cantrell’s office for their guidance and support throughout this process. Explore our recommendations on SOUL’s website.
Our next step is to propose changes to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) regarding protecting valuable trees on private property and introducing heritage tree legislation.
Tree Tips by Tim • Don’t Love Your Tree To Death
Remember- if you received one of our trees last year- don’t prune yet. Young trees are already under a lot of stress and pruning too early can cause “sun scald.” If you’re itching to tend to your tree, restrict your pruning to dead branches, and keep 2-3″ of mulch around the base of your tree without touching its trunk. Don’t overwater your tree during this rainy time. It’s also time to loosen your support if you staked your tree. This helps this tree flex and develop its strength.
Tim Benton is a licensed arborist who practices in New Orleans. www.bentontreeservice.com & Facebook
Check out our Upcoming Events!
Our goal is to plant 600 large native trees this year!
Want a tree (for free)?
If you live in one of our partner communities- Mid-City, Broadmoor, or Algiers/Algiers Point, and want a tree, sign up here.
Want to volunteer and help plant trees?
Sign up here.
Our goal is to cluster trees in our partner communities. We prefer to plant twenty trees on one block than twenty trees on twenty blocks. Clustering allows the trees to more quickly impact stormwater, subsidence, shade and their other benefits.
Donate today so that we can plant native water-loving trees!
Benefits of Urban Greening
It’s obvious that street trees and sidewalk gardens beautify our urban environment. They provide so many other benefits that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and city planners regard them as part of a city’s “green infrastructure.”
Trees increase property value
Street trees increase the “curb appeal” of properties. A study of the sale of houses in Portland, Oregon found that on average, street trees add 3% to the median sale price of a house and reduce its time-on-market by 1.7 days.
Trees produce oxygen, clean the air and reduce global warming
Trees release oxygen as a product of photosynthesis. Two medium-sized, healthy trees can supply the oxygen required for a single person for a year. Trees clean the air by absorbing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming; they store carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, in their stems and leaves. Trees capture airborne particles such as dirt, dust and soot; a mature tree can absorb120-240 lbs of particulate pollution each year. A 2008 study by researchers at Columbia University found that more trees in urban neighborhoods correlate with a lower incidence of asthma.
Trees and sidewalk gardens reduce flooding and water pollution
Trees calm traffic
The presence of trees reduces the speed of drivers, and reduces the frequency and severity of crashes.
Trees and sidewalk gardens increase revenues in shopping districts
Consumers have a 12% higher willingness to pay for goods and services in retail areas that have streetscape greening such as street trees and sidewalk gardens.
Trees and sidewalk gardens may reduce crime
The greener a building’s surroundings, the fewer reported crimes. Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer crimes than those without any trees. “Green” spaces are used more frequently (by pedestrians and for recreation), which increases “eyes on the street” and deters would-be criminals. Residents living in “greener” surroundings report lower levels of fear, fewer incivilities, and less violent behavior, because greenery promotes a greater sense of community and alleviates mental fatigue, a precursor to violent behavior. (see source)
Trees and sidewalk gardens promote exercise
In a neighborhood with more street trees and other plants, people judge walking distances to be less, and are therefore more likely to travel on foot, which has health benefits. (see source)
And more benefits…
Trees can make the wait for a bus feel shorter.
Street trees and sidewalk gardens create a physical and mental barrier between the street and the sidewalk, keeping pedestrians, children and pets out of harm’s way.
Street trees and sidewalk gardens provide a natural habitat for birds and insects.
Street trees absorb traffic noise and increase privacy.
Street trees and sidewalk gardens build neighborhood and civic pride.
Neighborhood planting events strengthen communities and bring neighbors together.
Everybody loves a party, and nobody loves a good time more than New Orleans, particularly during Mardi Gras when nearly one and a half million visitors flood the city, more than tripling its usual population. But after any good time, there is a lot to clean up from the festivities, and street trash is an overwhelming burden. This year the city had help, thanks to the Wing-Gate automatic retractable screen (ARS) stormwater inlet protection devices from California-based United Storm Water Inc. and United Pumping Services.
Company stormwater sales manager Terry Flury explains how the specialized protection devices help municipalities cope with the everyday headache of trapping trash and protecting stormwater. “Although we originated in southern California, compliance with increasingly stringent policies of municipal separate stormwater sewer systems [MS4s] across the country is helping drive our popularity. Our full-capture devices are all stainless steel and have a five-millimeter perforated screen that prevents items as small as a cigarette butt from entering storm drains.
“We also have stormwater filter DrainPacs that filter out hydrocarbons, and we can customize the filter media to address whatever the customer needs. For example, if you’re concerned about heavy metals, oils, or fertilizer, the filter media could be Perlite, activated carbon, or whatever you might need to address the problem.”
And customizing the product is all in a day’s work, even when it’s a rush to meet the deadline for arguably the country’s biggest, or at least most enthusiastic, outdoor party.
“We recently did a Wing-Gate screen install on Bourbon Street in New Orleans,” explains Flury, “and we had to come up with a special design. Our standard ARS screens are configured completely different and could not accommodate the New Orleans street grate models, which are very unusual and strange looking, made around 1900, and all cast iron with multi-phased support legs.”
Flury says the city wanted something in place by Mardi Gras 2016, so the design team was challenged to come up with a new configuration.
“We did a pilot test of 30 basins and came up with a Wing-Gate design that was completely different. This went through [the city’s] approval process and we had the screens in place well before Mardi Gras.”
City officials were pleased, he says. “We’re now working on a plan to eventually do the whole city.”
The Wing-Gate devices, he explains, are automatic retractable screens that respond to the incoming water, both retaining trash and allowing water to flow. The ARS fits right into the curb openings; in dry months the screen prevents trash from entering the catch basins, and during rain events it opens after water reaches about 40% of curb height. Connector screens then act as a second line of defense for debris, protecting the outlet pipes.
Sometimes meeting client needs has to address more than making a new size or configuration. Flury describes how the bright stainless steel of the ARS was virtually a magnet for scrap collectors in some urban areas. “So for customers who need it, what we’ve done is simply finish the stainless in flat black paint with a powder coating, which replicates plastic and draws far less attention and protects their investment.”
Since the company actually comprises two entities—United Stormwater and United Pumping—Flury says they can manage not only client stormwater needs, but also hazardous waste.
“If we run into a hazardous waste issue, we can act in a remedial capacity. For example, if we run into an oil spill, oil in storm drains, our crews will come and dam up the area and either broom off or vacuum the oil. We really have the best of both worlds when it comes to managing and protecting our water.”
article below by R. Stephanie Bruno and courtesy
Susannah Burley was dealing with an insurance adjuster when I caught up with her to talk about green infrastructure in the aftermath of the most recent unexpected New Orleans flood.
“I live in the Fairgrounds Triangle neighborhood, and we got water inside of our rental property and both cars,” she lamented. “My husband’s car will be OK, but the adjuster wants to total mine.”
I met Burley a couple of years ago when she led the education program at Parkway Partners and I took the “Green Keepers” classes. Burley became so committed to the idea of using rain gardens, retention ponds and appropriate street plantings to reduce flooding that she left Parkway Partners and founded a new nonprofit, SOUL NOLA, in June 2016.
“It’s an acronym for Sustaining Our Urban Landscape, and the idea is to work neighborhood by neighborhood to help residents form a strategic plan to reduce dramatically the amount of stormwater that goes into catch basins and the drainage system,” said Burley, who also holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from LSU.
“We had a lesson last weekend in the limits of what drainage systems can do … and we know it won’t stop flooding in the future. We need green infrastructure.”
The catastrophic flooding of last weekend appears to be the result of problems with the pumps and an abnormally large volume of rain in a short period of time. Yet Burley said that a robust approach to creating “green infrastructure” citywide might have reduced the flooding by keeping rain water out of the streets.
If the terms “green” and “infrastructure” don’t seem like they belong together, Burley says it’s because the idea is new to most cities.
Before Hurricane Katrina, the goal was to ensure that rainwater reached the drainage system as quickly as possible so it could be pumped to Lake Pontchartrain. Thinking has changed.
Now the idea is to deal with rainwater where it falls and to find ways to retain it or slow its path to the drainage system so the system won’t be overwhelmed and so rain can seep into the ground and replenish groundwater, important to reducing subsidence. Rain barrels, rain gardens and the like are some obvious ways to do it.
“At City Hall Tuesday, we learned what it would take to completely rebuild the drainage system to handle more water — it’s not going to happen,” Burley said, referring to the public meeting held to discuss the flood.
“So green infrastructure has to become part of the city’s plan for the future. As long as we pin our hopes on the drainage system and ignore the benefits of using green infrastructure to handle stormwater, we’re going to flood over and over again.”
SOUL is working with neighborhood leaders in Mid-City and Algiers and is in the planning phases with Broadmoor on a project aimed at reforesting the city, one neighborhood at a time.
“There are so many different options for green infrastructure, but right now we are focusing on tree planting. Did you know that New Orleans is the most deforested city in the United States?” Burley asked. “Estimates are that New Orleans can accommodate a million more trees than we currently have — a million! Though our ‘Ya Dig?’ program, we planted 190 trees last year and will plant 600 this year. Once the neighborhoods we are working with are reforested, we’ll expand to more neighborhoods.”
Burley says trees are critical to helping manage storm water because they drink it up, thereby keeping it out of the vulnerable storm water drainage system. The bigger the tree, the greater the water storage capacity, she said.
Some of the thirstiest include Sweetbay magnolia, pond and bald cypress, and red maples.
A map on SOUL’s website shows the locations of trees planted to date. Every time volunteers and neighbors sink another one into the ground, its location is plotted on the map.
Click on a tree icon and see the address of the property where the tree was installed, the tree type and the container size. SOUL monitors tree health and condition after planting, but it is up to the residents and neighbors to keep the tree sufficiently watered the first year.
Live oaks, sweet bay and Little Gem magnolias, Drummond red maples, native fringe trees and Savannah hollies are a few of the tree types that appear on the map. Larger trees (live oaks) have been planted on neutral grounds and smaller trees (small magnolias, for example) on residential properties at the owner’s request.
Burley said, “We need to stop thinking of trees and greenery as merely ornamental and think of them for what they are — our front-line defense against flooding.”
below from waterwisenola.org
DIY Guide to Simple Rainwater Harvesting
Compendium of Urban Water Management Developments in Southeast;
Stormwater Compendium Site Map – New Orleans
Map of Urban Water developments in New Orleans
Joy of Water Cookbook
Booklet with information on how to install stormwater management on your lot
HCP water management fact sheet
Neighborhood Green Infrastructure Presentation
American Red Cross
The Red Cross continues to work closely with local officials and partners to provide support to those affected by flooding in New Orleans this past weekend. Currently, the Red Cross is coordinating with local government to assist with damage assessment, as well as providing cleaning kits and recovery planning support to affected individuals and families. Contact the American Red Cross at 504-620-3105.
If you need assistance with cleanup, sign up on the website or call Windy at 504-982-6333.
NOLA Tree Project
NOLA Tree Project can coordinate volunteers, tools, and cleaning supplies to help with cleanup activities. Contact them for volunteer opportunities or to request assistance.
Rebuilding Together New Orleans
Rebuilding Together New Orleans, a program of the PRC, helps homeowners with critical home repair services by utilizing volunteers. If your home received damage and you need help, contact the intake department at 504-581-7032. If you want to help, contact Volunteer Manager Kat at 504-636-3075 or [email protected].
SBP can help homeowners whose homes were impacted by the flooding. Volunteers can assist with gutting and mold remediation. Contact Judy at [email protected] for volunteer opportunities. Homeowners in need of assistance should contact the client services department at 504-644-4639. SBP provides free resources (mold remediation, basic insurance guide, avoiding contractor fraud) for residents affected by disasters. These guides can all be accessed and downloaded from http://sbpusa.org/start-here/ .
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services can provide legal assistance to tenants who are being evicted or who are being asked to pay for repairs by their landlords due to flooding. Go to their office at 1010 Commons Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 9-3 and bring proof of income, lease, and any other important documents.
If your organization is accepting volunteers or offering services for residents affected by flooding and would like to be listed here, email [email protected].
Clean up Safely
NOLA Ready guide to cleaning up after safely
Prevent Mold Growth
- Clean wet or moldy surfaces with bleach. See the guide on the following page for how to safely clean with bleach.
- Use fans to dry wet building materials, carpets, and furniture.
- Throw away anything that you can’t clean or dry quickly.
- If mold growth is large, contact a licensed mold removal professional.
Prevent Mosquito Breeding
- Remove trash and clutter like old tires, buckets, and tarps.
- Empty standing water from containers like pet dishes, children’s toys, and flowerpots.
- Keep water fresh in containers like bird baths and kiddie pools.
- Clean gutters and catch basins.
- Call 311 to report illegal dumping, abandoned swimming pools, and water leaks.
Organize Debris for Sanitation Pickup
Sanitation collection will occur as scheduled. For properties eligible for collection by the City:
- During the 2nd collection this week, the Sanitation Department will pick up bulky waste including debris, carpeting and other large items. Residents are encouraged to inform 311 of bulky waste pickup needs.
- Tree limbs, branches and carpeting must be cut in four feet (or less) lengths and bundled. Tree limbs cannot be more than 12 inches in diameter.
- Leaves should be bagged and the bags secured.
Resources for Small Businesses Affected by Flooding
Contact the Office of Economic Development
The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development is currently conducting preliminary damage assessments of businesses affected by Saturday’s flooding. If your business was damaged, contact Economic Development at (504) 658-4200.
View the New Orleans Building Hardening Guide
The City of New Orleans Office of Resilience & Sustainability and NOLA Ready have put together a guide on how to protect your business from high winds, flooding, fire, winter weather, and hail. These techniques range from very minor, inexpensive retrofits which you might do by yourself to far more complicated measures which require the assistance of a licensed professional.
View the New Orleans Building Hardening Guide .
File a Claim for Flood Damage to Your Home or Business
Read more on how to file a claim from FEMA .
Start the Claims Process by Contacting Your Insurer
After experiencing a flood, contact your agent or insurance company to file a claim. Make sure you have the following information handy:
- The name of your insurance company
- Your policy number
- A telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times
An adjuster should contact you within a few days of filing your claim. If you do not hear from an adjuster, you can contact your insurance agent or company again.
Document the Damage
Separate damaged from undamaged property. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage to your home and possessions to prepare your repair estimate.
- Take photographs of all of the damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels.
- Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their date of purchase, value, and receipts, if possible.
- Officials may require disposal of damaged items so, if possible, place flooded items outside of the home.
Complete a Proof of Loss to Support Your Claim
Your adjuster will assist you in preparing a Proof of Loss (which is your sworn statement of the amount you are claiming including necessary supporting documentation) for your official claim for damages. A Proof of Loss can be many things, but must contain the specific details set forth in the Standard Flood Insurance Policy. You’ll need to file your Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood. This document substantiates the insurance claim and is required before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or insurance company can make payment.
You’ll receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss. If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims and make payments because of the sheer number of claims submitted.
File a Claim for Flood Damage to Your Vehicle
Contact your car insurance company
Have your policy number and contact information ready.
Flood Repair Permits
Permits directly related to flood damage resulting from the August 5, 2017 flood event will have all associated permitting fees waived. Come to the One Stop Shop prepared with all of the documents that you need to obtain your permit in a single visit. If your building did not experience structural damage, but you still need to repair portions like floors, drywall, cabinetry, and electrical outlets, please click here to learn about the 4 things you will need to get your permit.
All Aboard the SOUL Train
Check out more about Sustaining Our Urban Landscape in the link: