The Mississippi River built the delta over thousands of years of changing course and depositing sediment. Dams, levees, and other structural constraints have starved the wetlands of sediment and nutrients, and interrupted the land building cycle.
As a result, Louisiana is losing land at the rate of about a football field an hour. We are loosing our marshes, estuaries and swamps. These places not only provide important habitats for resources such as fish, ducks and other wildlife, they also protect communities from storms.
We have to put the river back to work. Reconnecting the river with the wetlands is an important strategy for restoring the coast. One way to maximize the land building potential of the river is to build sediment diversions. Sediment diversions mimic natural river processes, and will allow the river to deposit sediment into sinking wetlands.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority‘s State Master Plan calls for 109 restoration projects ranging from marsh creation and barrier island restoration, to sediment diversions. This is a $50 billion/50 year plan, based on the best available science. Some of these projects can work together to maximize land building.
If we are serious about saving southern Louisiana from washing out into the Gulf of Mexico, we have to be serious about funding these restoration projects and moving some of them along. In 2010, the BP oil spill was the largest man-made environmental disaster in the US. As a result, Congress passed the RESTORE Act, as a way to funnel the money resulting fines and penalties to the states that were impacted by the oil spill. We are now in the process of deciding to what projects some of the funds will be directed.