Mirabeau Water Garden to reform water usage in local Gentilly park


Ramiro Diaz of Waggonner & Ball explains the goals of the water garden to Gentilly community members. (Caleb Beck, Loyola Student News Service) Photo credit: Caleb Beck

Caleb Beck

In a move to transform systems of broken levees and pipes ravaged by Katrina floodwater, the Gentilly neighborhood is converting a local park into a sustainable, eco-friendly industry standard for water management.

The Gentilly Resilience District hosted a tour on Feb. 4 at the Mirabeau Water Garden, a 25-acre plot in the Filmore area of Gentilly designed to cleanly divert groundwater from entire areas of the city built on reclaimed swamp and marshland that are prone to sinking.

This reform comes in response to structural issues the Resilience District has identified with the water system in place. Huge energy draws and threats of flooding from pumping groundwater through levees into Lake Pontchartrain are cited as key issues.

Architectural Designer Ramiro Diaz, of design firm Waggonner & Ball, outlined his plan of transforming this archaic system into a sustainable new green infrastructure project.

“The idea of the project is to manage groundwater, use it, and hold it where it falls. Where pumping groundwater causes the soil to sink, subsidence problems will be resolved by directing groundwater into the soil, effectively recharging it,” Diaz said.

The greater New Orleans urban water plan as it is called will introduce two detention basins, one to collect up to 10 million gallons of water from the street resulting from storms, the other to collect water from the ground.

By retrofitting the garden to collect water and naturally recycle it to the land, Mirabeau Water Garden is set to become a prospering environmental zone, planners say, replete with new cypress trees and revitalized soil.

Brian Burns, a city project manager, said the careful construction of the water garden is crucially time-sensitive.

“We have to aggressively manage water with this proposal because the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to introduce this system as summer approaches and flooding poses a huge threat,” Burns said. “Houston last year faced terrible floods without zoning laws in place.”

This project is jointly funded by The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program and the Housing and Urban Development National Disaster Resilience Competition. For the new water plan to receive near $12.5 million in funding from FEMA, the designers had to guarantee that the plan was oriented around reducing flood risk.

By channeling HUD, the urban water plan is now able to focus the second half of their design work with the community and transform the area into a sustainable infrastructure as well as an educational facility.

“Proof of concept is over, and we know what we can accomplish,” Jared Genova, of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, said. “Now we’re implementing our system step-by-step.”

Mirabeau Water Garden is in the final stages of design and is slated to begin construction in summer of 2017.