After a recent environmental impact statement was publicly released by the Army Corps of Engineers, more and more support has accumulated for the Louisiana Coastal restoration efforts, specifically Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta, according to an article from Biz New Orleans.
This drafted version of the Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released for a period of public review and comment, allowing for individuals and organizations to speak up and engage in the ongoing restoration efforts. The DEIS proposes that a sediment diversion is to be placed throughout a portion of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, extending into the Mid-Barataria Basin in Plaquemines Parish.
The Barataria Basin is currently experiencing one of the highest land loss rates in the world, and if approved, this sediment diversion could assist in the rebuilding and maintaining of tens of thousands of acres of land in the Plaquemines Parish area.
One group advocating for the implementation of the sediment diversion as a part of the Louisiana Coastal Master Planproject is “Restore the Mississippi River Delta,” which is a coalition of the National Audubon Society, Environmental Defence Fund, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. The coalition refers to the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion as Louisiana’s “best shot” to turn the tide on the state’s coastal land loss.
Between 1932 and 2016, the Barataria Basin has lost approximately 295,000 acres of land, making its land loss rate among the highest worldwide. A loss of land on this massive scale affects more than just maps of the region, as it displaces entire communities, threatens essential infrastructure and associated jobs, and completely destroys an iconic wildlife habitat that was once abundant and diverse.
The coalition’s campaign director Steve Cochran spoke of the immediacy of the proposal by saying, “unless we act now, we risk losing it all. The future of our entire region is at stake. The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will build more wetlands than any other individual restoration project in the world, in an area experiencing some of the highest land loss rates on the planet. If our region is to have a fighting chance against land loss, hurricanes, and sea-level rise, we must put the muddy Mississippi back to work to rebuild our coast.”
The full Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released by The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), consists of over 5000 pages, 10 chapters, and 20 appendices, detailing just how the proposed project could help to restore Louisiana’s coast. The full DEIS can be found on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website.
David Muth is the director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Program, which is a part of the “Restore the Mississippi River Delta” coalition, and he’s called for immediate action to be taken. Muth spoke of the importance saying, “Louisiana’s unparalleled coastal habitat is at risk of near-complete collapse in the face of climate change-driven sea-level rise. The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, perhaps more than any other project now planned, is vital to the long-term health of our wildlife and fisheries resources. We are finally beginning to address the serious challenges we face at an appropriate scale, using the right tool — the river. If we act now, we can remain a world-renowned Sportsman’s Paradise.”
Louisiana’s iconic coast is home to over 2 million people, a provider of nearly 30 percent of the commercial fishing landings of the United States, and a producer of 90 percent of the country’s outer continental oil and gas. These statistics and plenty more released in the DEIS denote that the time to implement coastal restoration efforts is sooner- rather than later.
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