Dr. John Lopez Speaks on Unprecedented Changes in our Basin


An excerpt from PC's ongoing Hydrocoast Map Series that documents environmental changes seen within the Pontchartrain Basin. The series is updated biweekly and you can receive it via email by signing up here. 

Transcript of Audio:

This is Dr. John Lopez, I'm the director of the Coast and Community Program for Pontchartrain Conservancy.


I'm going to speak a little today on the unprecedented circumstance we are seeing in our basin currently. That is the very large amount of fresh water that is being discharged into our basin, primarily from the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Which, I think everyone knows, has been opened twice this year. That has never happened before. Also, it's been opened twice in two consecutive years, which has never happened before.


The current flood that we're having on the Mississippi River, is a very prolonged flood that started back in November. In addition, in our basin, the Pearl River went into flood about a month ago introducing even more water. Generally, that water is moving eastward from Lake Pontchartrain to the Pearl River area, moving toward the Mississippi Sound, Chandeleur Sound, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. When it does that it displaces water that is otherwise brackish or has slightly higher salinity, and that can affect fisheries. Particularly with oysters, we think there are some impacts already occurring in the Biloxi Marsh. It will probably also impact shrimp or blue crab but to a lesser extent.


However, it is important to note that in the environment and the estuary like we have, there are many factors that can affect fisheries. So, we have to be careful to not prematurely assume that we understand what is happening and for that reason at Pontchartrain Conservancy we are doing everything we can to try and understand what's happening. And we hope that the state and federal agencies do likewise. We want to understand why things may have changed and what the effects might be, so we can learn from it and go forward.


One of the more concerning things is reports of mortality of dolphin. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced that they have identified this as an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) of dolphin. This [announcement] will create more capacity to try to understand this event with help hopefully from state and federal agencies.


We are concerned about the natural resources of the Pontchartrain Basin, it's our mission to protect those resources, and we believe that science is the most important thing to use to manage our basin optimizing the conditions of our estuary.

You can track environmental changes in the Pontchartrain Basin by using our Hydrocoast Maps. The series is updated biweekly and you can receive it via email by signing up here.