Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan to Receive National Planning Award for Environmental Planning

NEW ORLEANS, LA – This week, the American Planning Association (APA) announced that the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan would receive the 2015 National Planning Excellence Award for Environmental Planning. The APA’s national awards – considered the planning profession’s highest honor – acknowledge efforts to create greener communities that reduce the impact of development on the natural environment and improve environmental quality.  This award recognizes the plan’s strategy to reinforce the economic and environmental resilience of Southeast Louisiana and further positions the region as a global leader in water management practices.

Administered by Greater New Orleans, Inc. – the regional economic development organization – and led by Waggonner & Ball Architects, the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan directly addresses groundwater and storm water as critical factors in shaping a safer, more livable, and economically vibrant Southeast Louisiana. The plan sets forth sustainable strategies for managing the water resources of St. Bernard and the East Banks of Jefferson and Orleans Parishes. The study covers 155 square miles of urban areas and 69 square miles of protected wetlands.

This is the first regional water plan of its kind in the U.S., integrating infrastructure planning, land use planning and urban design at a regional scale. It also provides a framework for guiding public and private investments for the next 50 years and was funded by the Louisiana Office of Community Development – Disaster Recovery Unit, with Housing and Urban Development CDBG Disaster Recovery funding.

The plan offers an innovative approach to managing the water resources within the levees – primarily storm water, surface waters and groundwater – while promoting economic growth. It outlines principles for water management, regional planning, and urban design that take into consideration the region’s soils, water and biodiversity; existing infrastructure networks; and the urban fabric.

“Survival on the Mississippi River Delta requires constant awareness of the forces of water, with multiple lines of defense to protect against high water, hurricanes, and intense rainfall,” said David Waggonner, principal of Waggonner & Ball Architects. “This award recognizes that our plan signals a paradigm shift in water management, from a complete reliance on fighting water to finding ways to live with water while addressing soil stability and groundwater issues, all to create a base for sustained investment.”

It is estimated that implementation of the plan would save more than $10.8 billion in flooding, subsidence and insurance costs over the next 50 years and generate up to $11.5 billion in economic impact by increasing property values and creating jobs.

“This plan presents the opportunity to enhance quality of life and economic vitality by learning to live and work with water rather than simply defending against it. We congratulate Waggonner & Ball and the entire Urban Water Plan team for their vision,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “As we approach the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this important award recognizes Greater New Orleans as a leader in the Emerging Environmental industry, including the water sector, and underscores regional progress in building long-term resilience in Southeast Louisiana.“
The first regional water plan of its kind in the U.S., the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan was informed by an international team of experts, including many from the Netherlands.

“We are proud that the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan has won the distinguished National Planning Excellence Award for Environmental Planning. The Plan has its foundation in the Dutch Dialogues, which were started in 2008 by the Royal Netherlands Embassy and Waggonner & Ball Architects to set-forth a safer, more dynamic path and future for New Orleans through integrated water management, sustainable urban planning and smart redevelopment,” said Dale Morris, Senior Economist at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC. “The expertise shared, knowledge discovered, and friendships developed though the Dialogues and the Urban Water Plan process are a testament to the already robust Dutch-Louisiana partnership. That collaboration, and the dedication of the New Orleans community to the integration of design, engineering, science, economics, sustainability and community makes the Plan singular in its breadth, unique in the US, and a guiding light for all delta cities. As New Orleans implements projects in the Plan, it will prove wrong those who assert that geography is destiny and prove right, as William Jennings Bryan noted, that destiny is no matter of chance, it is a choice, a thing to be achieved.”

GNO, Inc. administered community input through an Advisory Council, which consisted of representatives from local, regional and national institutions ranging from Committee for a Better New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation to Jefferson Economic Development Corporation, the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation and the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission. More than 50 outreach meetings were held in the attempt to gather diverse input on the plan.

APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

“The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan provides both a methodology and solutions to address the challenges of the Mississippi River Delta,” said W. Shedrick Coleman, 2015 APA Awards Jury chair. “The plan is innovative and provides a benchmark for other communities to live in harmony with bodies of water.”

The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan and other APA award winners will be honored at the 2015 National Planning Awards luncheon April 20, 2015, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The plan will also be featured in the April 2015 issue of Planning magazine. Read more at:

For a list of all of the APA 2015 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit

About Greater New Orleans, Inc.
GNO, Inc. is the regional economic development organization, serving to coordinate, consolidate, and catalyze economic development activity. The GNO, Inc. mission is to create jobs and wealth in the Greater New Orleans community. The GNO, Inc. vision is for the Greater New Orleans region to fulfill its potential as one of the best places in the country to grow a company, and raise a family. More information is available at

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