As the Mississippi River reaches historic flood levels, local communities and the entire nation watch and wait, hoping the levees will hold and that catastrophic flooding will be avoided. The safety of the people and towns along the Mississippi is the government's first priority. But after the floodwaters recede, there will be tough questions to answer regarding river management and preventing future natural disasters.
Was this flooding truly a natural disaster, or did poor government policies cause it or at least exacerbate it?
In light of these questions, the National Wildlife Federation released a new report promoting the protection and restoration of natural flood defenses. The report identifies five ways government policies and practices are contributing to the extraordinary flooding and resulting impacts, as well as five specific recommendations to help policymakers avoid and minimize catastrophes like this one.
By Craig Guillot, National Wildlife Federation
(NWF) -- As the rising waters of the Mississippi River continue to impact communities along its banks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and flood control managers are desperately trying to mitigate the impacts. In Louisiana, the solution has been to open spillways that relieve pressure on the levees and divert some of the river's waters to the Gulf of Mexico.
The human consequences of this flood will be catastrophic and long-lasting. Massive flooding has already hit parts of Tennessee and Mississippi and tens of thousands more homes are at risk of flooding. New Orleans is carefully monitoring the rising waters.
But experts say there's a valuable lesson to be learned in this historic event: sediment deposits from floods like these could actually help build land along Louisiana's rapidly eroding coastline. While the opening of spillways and diversions may help prevent further flooding, experts say the river could be put to even greater use to help both people and natural systems.
Watch the video...
By Karla Raettig, National Wildlife Federation
As part of its Blue Ribbon Resilient Communities initiative (BRRC), America’s Energy Coast (AEC) held its second BRRC Leadership Forum on May 16 and 17 in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The focus of the forums is to bring key stakeholders together to discuss the threats and opportunities in communities throughout the Gulf Coast.
The Belle Chasse forum focused on how to ensure a safe and prosperous future for Plaquemines Parish because rapid land loss has dramatically increased the risks of damage from storm surge. After presentations from scientists, members of the non-governmental organization (NGO) community, and local and state government officials, the attendees focused on answering the following key questions:
- How do we protect what we value based on how vulnerable we are and the threats we face?
- How do we prioritize solutions with what we value?
- Where do we start?
Answering the questions resulted in lively and at times difficult discussions, but forum attendees shared a widespread consensus that the future of Plaquemines Parish depends on swift action to utilize the sediment of the Mississippi River to rebuild marsh and land.
By Seyi Fayanju, Environmental Defense Fund
When you hear about the floodwaters coursing through the Mississippi River Valley, it's hard to visualize just how much water is rushing south towards the Gulf of Mexico. Now, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Mississippi River Floods May 2011 Flickr site, the Atlantic Magazine, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District's Flood Fight 2011 Flickr site, Louisiana State University's Earth Scan Laboratory
and NASA's Earth Observatory
(to name a few), you can see the power of this spring deluge.
These pictures reveal the wide band that the river has cut through cities and farmland north of the river delta. Notice how brown the river is. Like some bizarre pipeline from a Willy Wonka fantasy, the river streams southward with a color that ranges from caramel to chocolate depending on your perspective. That's because the water is channeling soil and sedimentary material from nearly 30 states (and two Canadian provinces) by the time it hits the Louisiana state line. From there, the Mississippi River is joined by a few more tributaries before it begins to branch out.
"Faces of the Delta" is a community profile series that shines light on the diverse and unique cultures of Southeast Louisiana. During the next few months, readers will learn what coastal Louisiana means to a fisherman on the bayou, a faith leader in the Vietnamese community of New Orleans East, a teacher in the Lower 9th Ward, and many more community leaders who know that restoring the coastal wetlands of Louisiana is key to community recovery after the catastrophes of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil disaster, as well as the prosperity of the nation. Share these profiles and give others the inside look at the heart of coastal Louisiana. - Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
Follow this link to meet Mike Hymel, commercial fisherman and coastal restoration advocate from Barataria, Louisiana.