(Oct. 22. NOLA.COM) There are better ways to rebuild Louisiana’s wetlands.

It’s not too late to stop a long-imagined but misguided $2 billion project to divert up to 75,000 cubic feet per second of the Mississippi River into the Barataria Basin to replenish disappearing marsh.

The public comment period with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project ends Monday. Despite the decades of planning that have gone into the project, the Corps should not approve it right now. Critics such as Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser have raised too many good objections.

More important, alternatives exist that could rebuild wetlands faster, at a lesser cost, and without the environmental harms the diversion will create.


I write this as a 35-year-long cheerleader for diversion projects for wetlands restoration. It is incontrovertible that a major reason for wetlands loss is the man-made levee system that keeps the Mississippi from regularly overflowing its banks and sending sediment-rich water into south Louisiana’s marshes. For decades, coastal restorationists have reasoned that man could reintroduce nature’s designs by re-engineering the levee system to re-provide part of the former sediment flow.

Alas, that theory isn’t well-tested. Cheerleading must bow to empirical evidence. Prior, smaller diversion projects have seen mixed results. Several respected oceanographers say the diversion would destroy more wetlands than it would save. Plus, for millions of years, the river’s water and sediments carried no pesticides and herbicides, not to mention other toxic chemicals. Now they do. And everybody agrees the sudden reintroduction of fresh water (along with the chemicals) will virtually wipe out populations of dolphins (about 2,000), oysters and shrimp in the basin, and probably also harm trout and other fish.

As has been well reported, the water from the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway caused horrid suffering and death of dolphins and some $256 million in damages to fisheries overall…..

[The rest of the column is at this link.]


Tags: , ,