By Kloe Witt and Katherine Hart, Mid-City Messenger
An underused lot near Bayou St. John is being transformed into a public green space and stormwater collection and monitoring center.
Construction began in the fall on the Sewerage & Water Board Green Infrastructure Project at Orleans Avenue and Moss Street. The site is set to open this spring.
It’s the 10th project developed under the S&WB’s green infrastructure plan created in 2014 under a federal consent decree. The Bayou St. John project will be a demonstration site to help people learn stormwater management practices.
The transformed lot will have the capacity to take 55,800 gallons — about 1,100 bathtubs worth — of stormwater off the streets and retain it before slowly sending it into city’s drainage system, according to the S&WB.
S&WB has owned the lot — bordered by Moss, Orleans and Toulouse Street with Armstrong Electric on the lake side — since the 1960s, and it has long removed runoff from the streets. Two underground canals run below the land to collect rainwater, though their capacity was sometimes hindered by illegal parking.
The project is designed to make the lot more efficient as well as more attractive. It adds four green infrastructure facilities: a bio-retention cell, native trees planted in fiber soils, a flexible pervious pavement system and permeable concrete pavers. The green infrastructure chambers are framed by a 150-foot wall that doubles as seating for visitors.
Twenty-five of the 50 tree planned for the site were planted Friday (Jan. 20) by volunteers as city officials joined SOUL (Saving Our Urban Landscape), an environmental nonprofit, in a press conference to unveil the New Orleans Reforestation Plan.
Speaking at the press conference, Ghassan Korban, executive director of S&WB, described the agency’s green infrastructure projects, designed to hold 300,000 gallons of stormwater.
“That’s a lot of water to be contained — we’re talking about capturing water where it falls,” Korban said.
The Bayou St. John site will allow engineers to test water as it comes in and channel it to different mediums that will filter the water. “It’s a way to apply what we learn here and utilize it in the future,” Korban said.
In addition to their aesthetic and cooling properties, trees absorb stormwater. SOUL estimates that the 6,785 trees it planted from 2016 to 2022 have already kept 200,596 gallons of water out of the drainage system. As the trees and their root systems grow, their environmental impact will increase, according to SOUL Executive Director Susannah Burley.
As the Reforestation Plan was discussed Friday, volunteers from the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy planted two different types of trees: nuttall oaks and river birch.
Project designer Danielle Duhe, a landscape architect with Dana Brown & Associates, told Mid-City Messenger these trees were chosen because they are native and don’t mind being wet, something important for the New Orleans climate and to the drainage site, which will retain water after storms.
Duhe said construction started in November 2022 and is set to be completed in the next two weeks.
Once construction is finished and the tall chain-link fence comes down, it will be open to the public. “We’re creating a destination for our neighbors to come and enjoy,” Korban said.
Kloe Witt is a journalism student at Loyola University and a reporting intern at NOLA Messenger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.