Diversions Help Rebuild Mississippi Delta

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Diverting the Mississippi River's Water and Sediment is an Effective Way to Restore Louisiana's Eroding Coastal Land, Officials with an Influential Governor's Panel Agreed

Diverting the Mississippi River's water and sediment is an effective way to restore Louisiana's eroding coastal land, officials with an influential governor's panel agreed Wednesday.

Members of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation say they are optimistic about plans to restore the coast by diverting the river into estuaries and swamps long cut off from the waterway's nourishment by levees.

In recent months the commission has visited existing Mississippi River diversions built by the Army Corps of Engineers: One is Davis Pond, upriver from New Orleans, and the other is Caernarvon, south of the city. Both diversions funnel mostly freshwater, but also some sediment, into nearby estuaries.

Although not built as marsh-building projects, the diversions clearly prove to helping areas suffering from land loss, panel members said.

Letting the Mississippi River run free of its banks to restore Louisiana's deteriorated coastal ecosystem is a long-discussed, but controversial, subject.

"It is astounding to see what can be accomplished by letting nature do what nature does," said King Milling, a banker and chairman of the, at a meeting Wednesday in New Orleans.

Ted Falgout, a former port director and head of a subcommittee on diversions for the commission, said it was "eye-opening" to see sand bars, sediment banks and willow trees "teeming with wildlife" in areas where river water has flowed through the Davis Pond diversion.

Milling said the trip into the backwaters behind Davis Pond revealed a healthy looking ecosystem. "It reminded me of scenes of Barataria basin that I have not seen since the '60s and '70s."

Jim Tripp, a panel member and senior counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the trips proved to him that diversions work.

"I'm far more optimistic about the ability to sustain this coast," Tripp said.

The swamps and marshes of south Louisiana — which form the delta of the Mississippi River — were built up over centuries of land-making processes connected to the flow of sediment, sand and silt coming down the Mississippi, the third largest drainage basin in the world.

Source: Greenwitch Time

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