Although construction was publicly funded, operations and maintenance must be covered by the local agencies, which is difficult for municipalities reeling from disaster. One solution proposed for the Chalmette Loop—a feature not included in the final project due to schedule constraints—promised revenue for O&M and also offered environmental sustainability advantages. Bioengineering Group recommended developing renewable-energy-generating capabilities within the system, farming biomass crops within the right-of-way and mounting wind turbines on floodwall foundations, putting them to dual use.

Planting and harvesting switchgrass was projected to net more than $100,000 a year. Wind power, through a partnership with a developer that would own and operate the equipment, was projected to generate 100,000 MW/h of competitively priced renewable energy, enough to power 20,000 homes.

Although those ideas were not incorporated into the final design, the local community is pursuing them. Implementing similar ideas elsewhere could produce revenue, reduce financial burdens and ensure inspection, maintenance and repair of infrastructure.

Communities affected by Superstorm Sandy and future disasters should consider similar arrangements. Investments in multi-functional infrastructure can yield more financially viable and effective projects and reshape the way communities accomplish risk reduction in these times of funding challenges.

Retired Maj. Gen. Merdith W.B. "Bo" Temple, USACE, wrote this article with Wendi Goldsmith, CEO of the Bioengineering Group.