Three coastal restoration plans have been selected in an international design contest kicked off two years ago by the Environmental Defense Fund. Plans call for multiple diversions, starting in Belle Chase, in varying locations for the next 100 years.
The competition was called “Changing Course.” It centers on harnessing the power of the Mississippi River to spread its sediment over disappearing wetlands, and build back the land.
EDF spokesman Steve Cochran says it’s time that land building stepped up in the river-management process, alongside navigation and flood control. He says the Delta can be restored, but it will be smaller.
“We have lots of work under way with dredging and others to build land quickly," Cochran said. " How do we continue to sustain it over time? Diversions are a part of that answer, but how do we go beyond that? Can we go beyond that?”
Rob Nairn of Baird and Associates says several methods will be needed in coming decades.
“Our plan makes the smaller future Delta as large as possible. Dredging will play a role, but it can’t be the only method we rely on to sustain the future Delta," Nairn said. "It would cost $1 to $3 billion dollars every year, forever.”
John Hoal of the Studio Misi-Ziibi team says river flow can be increased in areas to naturally deepen waterways – saving maritime money spent on dredging.
Jeff Sheldon of Moffatt and Nichol says delta communities may have to combine and move to safer areas, but will ultimately thrive. Residents are vital to directing the evolving landscape.
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will be incorporating Changing Course designs into its management plan for the lower Mississippi River.