There was a time when the Mississippi River flowed its course naturally with its ever-shifting waters acted as continent-sized earth mover that picked up sand and dirt from the North and deposited it in the Delta region that resulted in creating a land called south Louisiana. Thousands of years later, the river is controlled by man-made levees and flood control systems. Engineers plan to change some dissolved swamps by cutting into the levees and redirecting sediment-rich water that can be diverted into coastal basins. At some point when the silt settles out of the water, it will gradually accumulate into the soil.
Some critics question whether the idea poses its own environmental risks. But if the idea works, the project will reestablish critical support against the floods and offer a new habitat for migratory birds and fish that rely on wetlands. Saltwater is swallowing the coast, driven by a network of canals cut for oil and gas development, navigation and logging. The state estimates that it has lost over 2000 square miles of land and believes as many as 4200 square miles could vanish over the next 50 years depending on the rise of sea levels.
Louisiana is putting efforts to restore its coast which includes spending a little more than $2 billion on two projects dubbed Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton for the bodies of water in which they will be placed. The key aspect of the sediment diversion is that it can operate continuously for decades. It involves a one-time effort to scoop sediment from one location and deposit it in another. The construction is expected to start in 2021 or 2022.
A Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority official said operators will have much more control over the diversion systems than they have over the spillway. He added a system of monitors will alert them to how the ecosystem is responding so they can make changes. He said the federal permitting process will help identify areas, such as oyster grounds, that might be affected by the diversions, so the state can help them.
(With inputs from AP)