The crazy thing about hammers is that one can build amazing works of carpentry one minute, improving everyday life for the carpenter and his neighbors, but the second that person drops the hammer on their foot, they realize just how much damage can be done with the same tool.
Such can be said about the coastline and levee systems along Louisiana’s share of the Mississippi River.
Since the first quests were pioneered to control the mighty river, the state of Louisiana has constructed countless miles of Levee systems along the numerous bodies of water in her borders.
As such, the levee systems have done plenty of good for the state, as many potentially devastating floods are halted by the man-made walls holding back the rushing, rising river water. However, despite the good, the levee systems are also a hammer dropped on the foot of the U.S., being, in part, responsible for the massive land erosion on the Louisiana coastline. Currently, Louisiana loses approximately one football field of land every hour.
The levee systems preventing the flooding Louisanians also serve to prevent the necessary sedimentary deposition that served to create the lands known as southeast Louisiana. Since the Mississippi River and other rivers and wetland areas were first levied off, regular rising and sinking of the contained water bodies only served to errode Louisiana land, never having the chance to deposit soil and rebuild land.
However, recent planning has led to some of the most hopeful news Louisiana has heard in years. The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion plan is now under construction, and can be expected to be completed by 2022 at the latest.
The idea is to create a controlled drain from the Mississippi River into the eroded wetlands of the Mid-Barataria region near Myrtle Grove. The river waters will deposit loose sediment into the area, mimicking the natural process of soil deposition during flooding. This, in turn, should lead to land construction in the area, while also fighting saltwater intrusion as fresh river waters takes over the area.
The project is very unlikely to affect any residential areas with river water, as the area projected to be affected by the diversion is non-residential wetlands. However, many in the seafood industry are unnecessarily concerned about the project, claiming that shrimp, oysters and fish harvests will be negatively affected by the immediate introduction of river water.
First and foremost, diversion water actually leads to more dynamic ecosystems, as the river water brings in rich nutrients with its priceless sediments. These nutrients spur plant growth, leading to a more hospitable location for aquaculture to develop a population and eventually be harvested by sportsmen and industrial fishermen.
Some also question about the viability of the oyster beds in the area affected by the introduction of river water. Worrying is practically needless, as the pumping station that will control the Mississippi River water introduction will also monitor the ecological reaction to the water. If the river water overwhelms the natural biomes of the wetlands, then the river water introduction will be stifled.
In the end, wetlands need sediment to survive. The Mississippi River pumps millions of tons of sediment into the Gulf of Mexico each year. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has finally started to implement a plan to get precious river sediment into wetlands that need it the most. Mankind has finally learned nature’s secrets about land deposition and will mimic it fully.
With this plan in place, the Mid-Barataria region can expect to maintain and expand over 30,000 acres of coastal wetlands over the next 50 years. These coastal wetlands will serve as a nesting ground for wildlife, a freshwater estuary, flood barriers, storm surge buffers and a beautiful trademark to south Louisiana. There has never been a better time to celebrate the future of coastal Louisiana.
Brett Landry is a 20-year-old mass communication senior from Bourg, Louisiana.