Mississippi River Sediment Bypassing Shrinking Wetlands

New Orleans, La. – The America's Wetland Foundation is coordinating communities along the Gulf Coast to study coastal areas that can be saved, and those that can't. Robert Twilley is vice president of research at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. He says the historical consensus to tame the river just isn't working.

"We know. We've run an experiment. And we did this on purpose. We knew what we were doing. It was a tradeoff. And so now, after 150 years and three generations, we're realizing the true cost of those decisions of no outlets but a major levee system."

Twilley says the major outlet is now in use - diverting Mississippi overflow through the Atchafalaya River basin.

Environmental science professor Denise Reed of the University of New Orleans says flushing the floodwaters into the Gulf is wasting opportunity.

"This is a great flood and it's the way big rivers like this work. It's the way big rivers like this build land. Unfortunately we're only going to see that happening in two very localized parts of the coast."

Foundation chairman King Milling says Louisiana's wetlands aren't being fed the sediment they desperately need.

"Ninety percent of this stuff's going to get right in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico or right into the Gulf of Mexico. It will not be used for the purposes which it was formally used for: to build this state."

The foundation panel will meet next month in Houston.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.