Louisiana's Efforts to Fight Our Land-loss Crisis
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's 50-year, $50 billion Coastal Master Plan lays out an ambitious strategy to create a sustainable coast in the face of rapid and accelerating land loss. The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, a cornerstone project in the plan, has been getting a lot of attention lately, as it reaches crucial milestones in the permitting process and moves towards eventual construction and operation.
One of the foundational causes of our land-loss crisis in Louisiana is the leveeing of the Mississippi River. Although levees do the critical job of keeping our communities safe from river floods, they have also cut off the River from the delta. Without the regular addition of sediment and freshwater to the basins that make up the Mississippi River Delta, the land continues to sink and erode without the sediment inputs from the River to balance those natural processes.
Sediment diversions are designed to address land loss by reconnecting the River to its delta, providing a sustainable source of sediment that will support the delta's health in the face of ongoing subsidence and sea-level rise. All across the coast, from Wax Lake to Davis Pond to Fort St. Phillip, we see the vibrant, thriving wetlands and land-building that result when the River connects to the marsh. It's exciting to think about what will happen when a sediment diversion, like the proposed Mid-Barataria project, is specifically designed to do that job.
This year, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion took an important step forward in the permitting process with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) release and the Draft Phase II restoration plan. These documents explain the project's anticipated outcomes and lay out resources for mitigation of impacts on local communities. The public was given an opportunity to review and submit comments on these documents. Those comments will be taken into consideration over the next several months and will influence the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which is expected in the first part of 2022.
The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is a critical project in Louisiana's efforts to fight our land-loss crisis. These projects that reconnect the River to its delta are essential to bolster the long-term success of marsh creation, ridge restoration, and barrier island restoration projects that are also in progress. By addressing the underlying problem created by the levees, we can look forward to a more sustainable delta and a healthier coastal ecosystem well into the future.