Newell: SWBNO director pledges "We are ready" for hurricane season

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New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban spent nearly an hour with Newell today to deliver a status report of the beleaguered agency amid the arrival of heavy summer rains, hurricane season and the fiscal pinch city agencies are feeling as citizens withhold paying utility bills during the COVID pandemic.

“I really wanted to give you an opportunity to summarize where you guys stand at this point in time,” Newell began.

“We have been preparing for hurricane season,” Korban said. “We are walking into it with a lot of confidence… we have updated our emergency preparedness plans and our tabletop exercises. We’ve seen all the sections of our canals that are open, we’ve cut grass, removed debris, and are keeping an eye on all of those. We've done a lot of work on pumping and power. After the explosion at Turbine 5 in December, we’ve had to do a lot of reconfiguration of our power, so that certainly raises one concern - we have less redundancy than we did last year. We have some but not as much as we had in the past. We will continue to improve on what we have, ultimately focusing on the Master Plan that highlights the importance of bringing a new substation to create more redundancy and resilience.”“When we talk about these improvements, obviously one of the big challenges you've faced has been having the revenue necessary to do so,” Newel continued. “How much of this is funded, and how much if this is not?”