New Orleans – Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban delivered his first State of the Utility address Tuesday, May 14, as the latest installment of the Bureau of Governmental Research’s Breakfast Briefings series.
Korban delivered a stark assessment of New Orleans water, sewer and drainage infrastructure and spoke of the utility’s top immediate priorities: a shift away from steam power, a move toward automated water metering, and the creation of a strategic, encompassing Master Plan.
“Once we decide where we need to go, we must chart our course to get there,” he said. “That will be the guiding principle of the Master Plan process. Where we are now – putting up with water rather than living with it – is not where we want to be.”
Korban thanked Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the hospitality industry for their efforts to reach a compromise that will deliver SWBNO a much-needed infusion of funding. Under the agreement, $50 million in one-time money will be used to pay down the utility’s debt incurred during its emergency drainage repairs last year and to jumpstart several top-priority capital projects.
Those projects include:
The hardening of Turbine 6, SWBNO’s newest power-generating turbine installed in 2012, so that it can operate in colder weather
The installation of a frequency changer to replace two of SWBNO’s older steam-powered turbine generators
Added redundancy to Entergy electrical feeders to SWBNO facilities and equipment
Korban also spoke frankly about the condition of New Orleans’ water distribution system. More than a third of the city’s existing water mains are more than 100 years old. To end the constant emergency repairs to water main breaks, it is time to shift to a strategy of replacing lines that have outlived their life expectancy, he said.
The presentation and following discussion were wide-ranging, covering a variety of topics from customer billing issues, delinquent accounts and the response to Sunday’s storm. To view the presentation, please see the attached document. To watch Korban’s address, please visit www.bgr.org.
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