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Mayoral Candidates Debate Coastal and Urban Flood Issues

Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Mayoral candidates Latoyal Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet talk coastal restoration and urban flooding at a debate on Oct. 25, 2017.

Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet and Latoya Cantrell discussed water issues at a debate Wednesday night.


But it wasn’t much of a debate. Turns out, they actually agree on more than they disagree when it comes to water issues.


Councilwoman Cantrell and Judge Charbonnet were asked questions that touched on everything from coastal restoration to urban infrastructure.


Both candidates emphasized the importance of coastal restoration. Noting, for example, that the barrier islands along the coast provide important protection from storms.


Both Cantrell and Charbonnet said Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans should be overhauled from the top down.


Floods this summer revealed that the city’s pumping and drainage system is plagued with technical problems. The Sewerage and Water Board oversees most of that system.


Both also said they’d like to see the public utility communicate better with city departments like the Department of Public Works — which also maintains part of the stormwater drainage system.


They did differ on the issue of whether to sue oil and gas companies for coastal damages.


Several coastal parishes have done so in recent months. Those parishes claim that industry development has made land loss worse, and that it’s left them more vulnerable to flooding and storms. So far, the City of New Orleans hasn’t filed any lawsuits.


Charbonnet said she would change that.


“The lawyer in me says sue,” she said.

Cantrell was less committal. She considers legal action to be “on the table.”


The mayoral runoff election will be held on Nov. 18.


Support for the Coastal Desk come from the Walton Family Foundation, the Coypu Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.


As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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