NOLA architects discuss water management strategies for St. Bernard ParishOct 26th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: Community
The future of St. Bernard Parish and South Louisiana as a whole depends on smarter water management, says New Orleans Architects Waggoner and Ball.
“One of the biggest problems for residents is flooding,” said Aron Chang of Waggoner and Ball Associates. “Much of St. Bernard is 8 or 9 feet below sea level, and that’s a direct result of how
we’ve been managing stormwater over the last century.”
Chang explained that the current status quo for stormwater management— the use of drainage canals, inlets, catch basins and pump stations— paired with the lack of vegetation in urban areas like Chalmette, has a direct impact on an area in regards to sealevel.
“In the 19th century, much of New Orleans was built on the high-lying areas and the low-lying areas like the 9th Ward and Buccaneer Villa were swamps,” Chang explained. “The ground was like a sponge, it filled with water, it was squishy, but it was stable. Then overtime we capped these areas that were once swampland with asphalt and drained all of the water out of the soil so we could live and build on it.”
Chang explained that the result of a century of development on swampland was the compression of the spongy soil from the weight of our building.
Solutions: Delay, Store, Use
Waggoner and Ball believe the key to curbing stormwater issues in the Greater New Orleans
region is a three part solution: delay, store, use and drain when necessary.
“In St. Bernard, much like New Orleans East, we have these large drainage canals, which then feed into the 40 Arpent Canal, which is where all the pump stations are located,” said Chang. “The direct result of this system is the 8 feet of surface elevation change that we’ve seen in the last century;
that’s because we’re taking the water out of our soil overtime when we drain our canals.”
We can curb subsidence by effectively storing some of this water, and rehydrating our soils, said Chang. Citing a street in Portland, Oregon where curbside gardens were created to allow rainwater a place to soak into, he said that increasing vegetation plays a huge part in managing storm water in a way that benefits the soil underneath our streets.
“It’s not saying we’re returning to swampland, but recreating some of the conditions that allow soil to be healthy,” said Chang.
Chang says that the most viable solution for St. Bernard Parish specifically is to utilize the available greenspace throughout the parish— the near 2,000 empty LLT lots in addition to our existing canals.
Waggoner and Ball believe that with smart planning, our canals and open green spaces can be turned into attractive recreation areas that residents can actually use while combating subsidence and minimizing the effects of flooding. Additionally, the firm says that each homeowner can do small scale landscaping in their own yards to delay, store and use.
“A simple way to think about it is that when the water falls, it has to go somewhere,” said Chang. “Either go in your house or your car, or you create a space for that water to go.”