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Entergy to build new drainage substation for New Orleans

The substation will upgrade the city's dated drainage systems.

NEW ORLEANS — Entergy New Orleans announced Thursday it’s ready to start construction on a new dedicated substation for the Sewerage & Water Board, a highly anticipated project to make power to the city’s drainage and water pumps more reliable.

The substation will provide 60 megawatts of electricity that can be used to directly power about half of the city’s pumps, which run on the more modern type of electricity provided by Entergy. 

That’s more power than the Sewerage & Water Board has ever had to produce in-house to run the drainage pumps during any single flood event.

Entergy says the substation, to be known as the Sullivan Substation, will be completed by the end of 2023. 

Entergy will own and operate it, but it will be a part of the West Power Complex the Sewerage & Water Board is building at its Carrollton Plant.

It will use two transmission lines and two transformers to receive high-voltage power and distribute it directly to Sewerage & Water Board equipment, rather than relying on the overhead distribution lines that now deliver Entergy power to the Carrollton Plant.

The need for the substation has never been in dispute. 

It will provide more reliable power during storms and reduce the Sewerage & Water Board’s reliance on its own, often-broken steam and natural gas turbines that produce an old-fashioned kind of electricity that must be converted to the new kind whenever high winds knock out Entergy’s overhead lines.

But Entergy and the Sewerage & Water Board have been fighting for years about who would pay for the substation and how much it would cost. 

When Mayor Mitch Landrieu was in office, his deputy mayor and Sewerage & Water Board director Cedric Grant exchanged angry letters with Entergy New Orleans CEO at the time about who should pay to build it.

More recently, Entergy agreed to front more than $30 million for the project but backed out of the deal in January, saying its storm-related costs had made the investment impossible. 

That sent the New Orleans City Council scrambling to create a dedicated fund using federal pandemic relief money from the American Rescue Plan to pay that tab.

The agreement now in place between Entergy and the Sewerage & Water Board would require Entergy to cover any costs of construction that exceed $30 million, but the City Council has already allowed the electric utility to pass those costs on to customers through a special rate tariff.

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