Nearly $17M provided to restore New Orleans' water distribution system

NEW ORLEANS, LA, Oct. 15, 2009 -- FEMA and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) recently announced $16.9 million in additional funding to continue restoring the city's water distribution system to its pre-Katrina operating levels...

Oct 15th, 2009

NEW ORLEANS, LA, Oct. 15, 2009 -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) recently announced $16.9 million in additional funding to continue restoring the city's water distribution system to its pre-Katrina operating levels.

The funding reimbursed the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) for repairing approximately 28,450 water leaks throughout the East Bank of New Orleans. The leaks, caused by Hurricane Katrina resulted in an additional loss of millions of gallons of potable water per day throughout the system.

"FEMA is working with the Sewerage and Water Board to take a systems approach to funding damages," said FEMA's Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office Acting Director Tony Russell. "We know that the various leaks result in the combined loss of significant amounts of clean water daily, so our focus is on enabling the Sewerage and Water Board to fix the overall problem, instead of just funding repairs on a leak-by-leak basis."

"Allowing the Sewerage and Water Board to access these funds and fix the larger problem just makes sense," said LRA Executive Director Paul Rainwater. "Since Gov. Jindal took office, we've advocated for a system-wide approach to fixing problems, and I've always believed that looking at these issues in the broader sense -- instead of pipe by pipe -- is more efficient. Again, I want to thank Tony Russell for listening to our concerns, and more importantly acting on them in a productive way."

This funding will allow for the removal of water meters at vacant properties and fixing broken water meters at occupied homes; placing flow meters on the water system's six major trunks and on major feeder lines that provide drinking water to New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward to help locate areas of greatest water loss; and funding reusable sensors to identify leaks within one foot of their locations.

"We are pleased that FEMA recognizes the critical role the Sewerage and Water Board plays in the vitality and life of New Orleans," said Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Marcia St. Martin. "Absent these services of water, sewer and drainage, there is no city recovery. The $16.9 million represents the repairs begun by the 300 member team that remained on duty through Katrina and the repairs continue to be made daily."

Overall, FEMA has provided a total of $68 million to help restore the city's water distribution system. To date, FEMA has provided more than $274 million to the SWBNO for recovery work following Hurricane Katrina.

When FEMA approves projects through its supplemental Public Assistance grant, the funds are transferred to a federal Smartlink account. Once the funds have reached this account, the applicant can request reimbursement from the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) for eligible work completed. Obligated funds may change over time as the project worksheet is a living grant that is often adjusted as bids come in and scope of work is aligned.

The Public Assistance program works with state and local officials to fund recovery measures and the rebuilding of government and certain private nonprofit organizations' buildings, as well as roads, bridges and water and sewer plants. In order for the process to be successful, federal, state and local partners coordinate to draw up project plans, fund these projects and oversee their completion.

Created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005, the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is the coordinating and planning body leading the most extensive rebuilding effort in American history. The central point for hurricane recovery in Louisiana, the LRA works closely with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and partners with state and federal agencies to oversee more than $20 billion worth of programs, speed the pace of rebuilding, remove hurdles and red tape and ensure that Louisiana recovers safer and stronger than before.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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