President Joe Biden argued that his massive $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan was a solution to decades of underinvestment in roads, pipelines and other major projects across the country.
During his visit to New Orleans on Thursday, he will have the perfect backdrop to explain how old and failing infrastructure can have a direct impact on a city and its people: the Sewerage & Water Board’s Carrollton factory. .
Biden plans to visit the S&WB campus on South Claiborne Avenue on his trip through Louisiana, according to a public calendar provided by the White House on Monday. The site houses the utility’s water purification equipment. It also houses its turbines, more than half of which have failed in the past year even as the S&WB relies on them to power its pump network.
Local officials are eagerly seeking money for the infrastructure plan, which has yet to be debated by Congress, as a solution to the many problems caused by aging equipment and crumbling pipes at the S&WB.
Any money would come in addition to the $ 375 million New Orleans is already expected to receive from Biden’s coronavirus relief program, known as the US Rescue Plan, which was voted on by the party earlier this year.
The Carrollton plant serves as the center of the S&WB’s water and drainage operations and is home to its century-old turbines, which provide electricity to the unusual standard used by about half of the city’s pumps.
President Joe Biden travels to New Orleans and Lake Charles on Thursday to promote his plan to rebuild bridges, highways, ports across the country …
Neither the White House, the S&WB nor Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office responded to questions about the scheduled visit on Monday.
Although the administration was coy about the visit, city council member Joe Giarrusso, who chairs the committee that oversees the S&WB, said he welcomed it.
“The president has campaigned and ruled on several occasions on infrastructure restoration with an emphasis on sewers and water and we all know that the water plant equipment dates back to World War I.” , said Giarrusso. “Having federal funds to modernize any part of the sewer, water or drainage system is a welcome relief and the resources needed.”
Problems at the S&WB prior to Cantrell, which took office promising to fix the S&WB’s drainage system after a summer storm in August 2017, resulted in massive flooding throughout the city and exposed system vulnerabilities.
It secured an early victory in the form of a multi-million dollar deal with the hospitality industry and the state that diverted additional hotel taxes to infrastructure. But the situation at S&WB is in some ways as dire today as it was when she was elected.
The S&WB currently only operates on two of the five turbines it has at its Carrollton plant, as well as five large standby generators. That leaves him barely any better than when power problems contributed to the 2017 floods.
New Orleans is set to receive $ 375 million from the federal coronavirus relief law passed last week, an infusion equal to …
The current precarious situation began at the end of 2019, when one of its turbines exploded. Then, as the city prepared for a direct attack from Hurricane Zeta, another turbine had a problem with one of its bearings and was taken out of service.
A third turbine hung in the middle of this storm before breaking down.
S&WB officials have repeatedly promised that some of these turbines will be repaired in time for the start of the 2021 hurricane season on June 1, with at least one due to go into service early this month. The S&WB has not publicly disclosed the status of these repairs.
Longer term, S&WB is working on bringing two more turbines online before switching to Entergy New Orleans as their primary power source, a project that could take several years and tens of millions of dollars.
And it’s slowly getting into the replacement of underground water pipes and other aging pipes, some of which are a century old. Officials said completing all necessary pipe replacements under the city’s more than 1,500 miles of road would cost billions.
The trip is Biden’s first to Louisiana since starting his tenure, although he visited New Orleans while he was vice president to former President Barrack Obama and during his campaign against it. former President Donald Trump.
The calendar released by the White House shows Biden heading to Lake Charles, still recovering from last year’s hurricanes, to talk about the US jobs plan before heading to New Orleans. The S&WB is listed as the main stop in town.
It is not yet clear whether Biden will spend time on the trip visiting the other side of Claiborne Avenue, which received high profile mention in the rollout of the infrastructure plan.
Press releases sent when the plan was unveiled specifically called for the removal of Interstate 10 from N. Claiborne Avenue, pointing to the stretch of highway being constructed through central Treme as an example of racist planning practices. .