Claiborne to Inner Harbor
Splitting drainage at the Gentilly Ridge means that runoff from the French Quarter, Treme, Seventh Ward, and Upper Ninth Ward will be diverted along the Claiborne Corridor into the Industrial Canal rather than flowing toward the lake as it does now. This diversion brings water into the Desire Parklands, a broad open area with the capacity to store and filter thousands of acre feet of runoff and also to drive reinvestment in surrounding areas such as the Industrial Canal edge. New pumps at the eastern edge of the Desire Parkland lift stormwater into the Inner Harbor, a new center for industry, innovation, and waterfront development.
The Florida Avenue Canal is a vital component of the integrated living water system. With the proposal to split drainage at the ridge, using the Claiborne corridor to divert runoff from the backslope of New Orleans to the Industrial Canal and away from the Lake, the Florida Canal becomes a critical conduit for stormwater from west to east. The existing canal is 25 feet wide but can expand to 100 feet in width for increased capacity in anticipation of the larger volumes of water that will flow through the canal.
The Florida Canal can be transformed from a single concrete-lined canal into a braided network of channels that pass through a broad wetland habitat. Vegetated edges filter water as it travels downstream and arrives at a lake. Bridges span the braided network and pathways allow access onto islands within the corridor. Day-to-day, the canal offers recreational amenities in the form of open parklands. The Desire Parklands will anchor sites for commercial and residential redevelopment.
New detention basins and stormwater wetlands in the Florida Canal corridor, south of the Desire neighborhood, make possible this proposal and provide new amenities with which to spur reinvestment in a long-neglected corner of the city.
The idea of connecting the lake to the river harkens back to the original siting of New Orleans. The vision finally materialized in the 1930s with the construction of the Inner Harbor Navigation Channel, more commonly known as the Industrial Canal. A lock at the river allows watercraft to safely navigate the change in water level between the river and the lake. (Image: Courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers)
Once a popular place for people to view passing ships, the Industrial Canal can once again become an important place for public life and the growth of the region. Protected by new flood protection closure structures, the Inner Harbor’s existing port facilities, infrastructure, industrial installations, and nearby wetland restoration efforts can be the basis for new forms of eco-industry and development.
At the lakefront, the western edge of the Industrial Canal can support mixed-use development. On the eastern edge, industrial development can be connected to the urban fabric beyond. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway can support new eco-industry development zones, formed out of remediated landfill sites. To the south, the Central Wetlands Unit can become a wetland restoration park and vital habitat that provides unique recreational and ecological amenities to the whole region. At the riverfront, improved public access to the Inner Harbor can strengthen the identities of and the connections between the Upper Ninth Ward and the Lower Ninth Ward.
The juncture of the Industrial Canal and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is important to the regional hydrology and economy. Its existing industrial facilities and proximity to both business centers and wetland restoration zones provide opportunities for redevelopment and innovation in industry and ecology.