It’s almost impossible to find anyone in coastal Louisiana opposed to the idea of “coastal restoration.” Storms like Katrina, Gustav and Isaac have shown everyone the value of the marshes and swamps that once stood between them and the Gulf.
But when “restore” means turning things back to the way they once were, problems can arise.
The best-known example of that is the conflict over using river diversions.
If you’ve been listening and reading along this week, by now you know the consensus among coastal experts is that New Orleans and southeast Louisiana are headed for an early grave before the end of the century.
Because of river levees and damage from oil and gas canals, the wetlands that once protected this city from the Gulf have been reduced by more than half. And now what’s left of this landmass is sinking, at the same time the Gulf is rising due to global warming.
The clang of tide gauges throughout parts of southeast Louisiana aren’t from a science fiction movie, though they may make residents feel like they’re caught in one.
Those sounds tell the stories of rising tides along the Gulf Coast and melting glaciers in the Arctic. And they tell how scientists believe those two events, taking place thousands of miles apart, are the reasons why the Gulf of Mexico is on pace to submerge most of southeast Louisiana by the end of the century — if nothing is done.
These days when fishing guide Ryan Lambert motors away from the boat launch in Buras, he’s fishing in the what locals call “the land of used-to-bes.”
As in, that used to be Yellow Cotton Bay, or Drake Bay, or English Bay… and dozens more. It’s all one big open body of water now because the marshes, cypress swamps and ridges that separated these water bodies for most of his life are gone.
Anyone flying into New Orleans on a clear day now looks down on a panorama of delicate marsh floating like green lace on the brown waters of the Mississippi delta. Those wetlands seem endless — stretching to the horizons.
But scientists tell us we’re really looking at the skeletal remains of a vast wetland ecosystem that presented huge challenges to European explorers back in the 16th century.
In a new story out in The Lens today, environmental reporter Bob Marshall delves into an ongoing study about Mississippi River sediment, and its ability to rebuild the coast. Government agencies and scientists have some new ideas about how much mud and sand the Mississippi River deposits along the Louisiana coast before it flows out to the Intercontinental Shelf.
Marshall tops his story by laying out some assumptions:
Life on the Mississippi River is a roller coaster of highs and lows: record high floodwaters one year, a drought and near-record low water levels the next. And those are just two of the many problems faced by river stakeholders like barge operators, farmers and conservation groups.
Those stakeholders met recently in Chicago to discuss the Mississippi's most pressing needs, any common ground, and how to speak with a unified voice in advocating for the nation's largest river system.
Christal White delivers this week's Green Minute on ways to prevent water waste.
I didn't expect that producing the Green Minute would be so environmentally enlightening, and not just through big facts, but simple things one can do to help the energy and conservation efforts… even for those of us who, up until this point haven't been all that conscious of these things on our own (not naming any names).
The centerpiece of Louisiana's Master Plan to stem coastal erosion is this: divert the Mississippi River to let it flow over the marsh. Sediment in the river is supposed to stick and build up the wetlands, keeping more Louisiana land above water as sea levels rise.