NEW ORLEANS – The official start of the 2018 hurricane season is Friday, and for the first time permanent pumping stations at the mouth of the New Orleans outfall are operational.

These permanent pumps are now online and available for the upcoming hurricane season. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday morning at the pump station on near the 17th Street Canal.

They are the final project to be completed in the $14 billion, 130-mile perimeter flood risk reduction system built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the New Orleans area.

The pumps alone cost $644 million and together have the pumping capacity to fill the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with water in 90 minutes. The pumps are massive and have double the pumping capacity to move stormwater off city streets compared to the interim systems built after Hurricane Katrina.

According to the local levee protection authority, the structures are designed to block storm surges from Lake Pontchartrain caused by a hurricane. The stations are ready to go, when needed, at the mouths of the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals.

The pumping stations will be operated and maintained by the local levee authority in concert with the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board.

“With these barriers no online, the metro area has the metro area has the most robust flood defense system its ever had, and we’re thankful for that,” SLFPA-East President Joe Hassinger said. “I can assure the public that with the flood protection authority operating these structures, the barriers will be properly manned, the barriers will be properly maintained and when the water comes, they will perform.”