mississippi river

NASA

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.

So far, that hasn't been easy.

Critical, Crumbling Lifeline

Erin Krall / WWNO

Communities to the north are dealing with flooding from the swollen Mississippi River. But the Port of New Orleans is not expecting any interruption of shipping traffic.

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 persistent drought is raising questions about how the Mississippi River is managed — both upstream and down.

While cargo traffic upriver has gotten lots of attention, the drought is creating a different set of problems downriver at the mouth of the Mississippi, where saltwater has encroached.

An old-fashioned staff river gauge behind the New Orleans district office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows the Mississippi is running just shy of 6 feet above sea level at the river bend.

The Mississippi River has provided George Foster with a living all his life. Now, with the river dropping to historically low levels, it's threatening to take his business down with it.

Foster's office sits atop an empty barge on the river, just south of St. Louis. His building tilts at a 30-degree angle because the water is so low. Visitors may want to stick out their fingertips for balance walking down his narrow hallway.

Erin Krall / WWNO

The Port of New Orleans is keeping a close eye on Mississippi River drought conditions to the north. So far, the port is conducting business as usual.

University of New Orleans professor Norma Jean Mattei chairs the university's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She has studied flood-prone areas of the city, and knows the importance of the Mississippi River — for everything from flood protection to commerce and the environment.

Which is why President Barack Obama has nominated her to join the Mississippi River Commission.

America's Wetland Foundation

An environmental group that’s been studying Gulf Coast wetlands for the past decade is shifting its attention north. The America’s Wetland Foundation is focusing on the source of delta construction: the Mississippi River. The new project is called The Big River Works.

Capt. James "Jimmy" Cramond has been elected president of the Crescent River Port Pilots' Association.

Cramond is Coast Guard-licensed as a master of steam or motor vessels for inland waters. He replaces Capt. Allen J. Gibbs, who served as president for the past 11 years.

Named to the board of directors were Capt. E. Michael Bopp, vice president; Capt. Eric Short, secretary; Capt. Craig Clasen, director; and Capt. Richard Ducros II, director.

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