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:
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.
The Tangipahoa Parish Council voted unanimously to award a $4.8 million contract to Bertucci Contracting Co. of Metairie to construct a stone breakwater designed to halt coastal erosion in the extreme northwestern corner of Lake Pontchartrain.
Parish engineer Maurice Jordan told The Advocate on Monday a 10,000-linear-foot wall can be constructed from an area just west of the mouth of the Tangipahoa River toward Pass Manchac, which empties into Lake Pontchartrain.