Study: Diverting Mississippi River Sediments Below New Orleans Would Create New Lands
Large amounts of land can be generated from sediment diversions in the Mississippi River, despite sea level rise, sinking land rates and reduced sediment supply, according to a new study by the National Science Foundation and University of Texas at Austin.
While wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate, the new study shows diversions could reduce the natural land loss by 55 percent over the next 100 years.
River diversions already have been successful in building new land in the Atchafalaya and Wax Lake Deltas.
Non-governmental organizations have supported similar diversion project studies in the past. Uncertainties about diversions can be eased by better data collection on existing diversions and potential sites, in addition to diversion pilot projects.
Wetland Loss Linked to Drilling Activities
Coastal restoration advocates have long wondered about the exact effect of oil and gas industry on Louisiana's coastline. Now, the federal agency responsible for overseeing offshore energy development has started answering this question.
Scientists have provided conclusive evidence linking construction of oil and gas industry infrastructure with land loss in the Mississippi River Delta and other parts of the western Gulf of Mexico basin. That’s the conclusion of a recently published report from the U.S. Interior Department titled Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)-Related Pipelines and Navigation Canals in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico: Relative Impacts on Wetland Habitats and Effectiveness of Mitigation. The study’s findings also outline mitigation strategies necessary to arrest the pace of wetland destruction.
For thousands of years, the natural movements of the Mississippi River and its distributaries managed coastal Louisiana ecosystems. However, during the past few centuries, the creation of drainage channels and shipping canals, accompanied by habitat impacts such as saltwater intrusion, have reduced vegetation growth in the immediate vicinity of navigation infrastructure built to service Louisiana’s oil and gas sector. Additionally, the construction of pipelines and access routes to service the infrastructure have damaged the ecosystems. These impacts are in addition to those caused by the wetlands being disconnected from their Mississippi River source of freshwater and sediment, and other causes of wetlands loss.
The study shows that rates of land and wetland loss within close proximity of pipelines and navigation canals are significantly higher statistically than those observed for the wider region. While the pace of this destruction has slowed during the past 50 years, the toll from more than a half-century of industry-related damage remains visible.
The study also describes an urgent need for wider implementation of mitigation techniques, such as backfilling, that have proven successful in minimizing land and wetland loss in and around infrastructure linked to oil and gas extraction.
This study highlights the importance and complexity of restoring natural resiliency in a working coast like Louisiana. A combination of new best practices and a large scale restoration program where the state, federal government and economic interests like oil and gas participate is needed to both address the historic impacts of the industry and restore the ecosystem to health.
Meet Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's New Executive Director Anne Rheams
A New Orleans native who is committed to environmental stewardship and long-term sustainability of the town and its surrounding communities, Anne Rheams, has been picked as the new Executive Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
. Rheams has exceptional experience in environmental education. She was an instructor at the University of New Orleans for nine years and published multiple environmental programs.
She has served the organization in many capacities during the past 17 years, including projects to improve water quality, restore and protect natural habitat, and educate the public.
“My favorite thing about my job is that I get to help the natural environment that has nurtured me, the marshes and swamps that I grew up exploring as a child,” Anne said. “It is my turn to give back what it gave me in those formative years.”
Anne earned a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning - with a focus on development in the coastal zone - from the University of New Orleans. She also earned an undergraduate degree from the University of New Orleans in Geography and Cartography, with a focus on riparian habitats and streams.
Students Work with Communities to Rebuild after Hurricane Katrina
Louisiana State University architecture students are working with coastal communities damaged from Hurricane Katrina to provide ideas for rebuilding communities to promote sustainability and resilience to storms.
For example, some students are looking at St. Charles Parish along the Bayou Des Allemands, where additional protection from storm surge water is needed. However, current proposed solutions, such as levees or floodwalls, would cut off access to the water for people who live and work at the bayou’s edge. Groups of two to three students will explore creative solutions for these types of problems, giving the students a chance to apply their classroom knowledge in the real world.
To learn more about the class and its projects, read a recent story published in The [Baton Rouge] Advocate.