Of all the states dealing with global warming, Louisiana may have been hit the hardest. According to NPR, Louisiana has lost a staggering amount of coastline – more than 2,000 square miles – over the past 100 years. State officials have attempted various solutions, including levees, barrier islands, and artificial marshes, and now they want to get the Mississippi River involved to build new land.
Over time, Louisiana’s levees have impeded the Mississippi from flooding land and providing necessary water and sediments to marshes, making it harder for the marshes to survive. To help with this problem, Louisiana officials hope to create sediment diversions. This would entail removing parts of the levee and directing the Mississippi to marshes in channels, with the goal of allowing silt and sand to pile up and, ultimately, build land. The state has set aside $1.3 billion for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, the first of multiple planned diversions, and is applying for permits for the project.
Will it work? NPR cited an April 2018 Tulane University-led study scrutinizing whether or not the Mississippi River can build land fast enough. The study found that, around 1,000 years ago, the Mississippi Delta grew about two to three square miles a year. But Louisiana’s land loss has averaged 15 to 20 square miles a year during the last 100 years. Tulane’s press release on the study said, “Although river diversions that bring land building sediment to shrinking coastlands are the best solution to sustaining portions of the Mississippi Delta…the rate of land building will likely be dwarfed by the rate of wetland loss.”
A net loss of land will happen, even if restoration projects do go through. But Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority engineer manager Rudy Simoneaux told NPR that it’s urgent they divert the Mississippi, saying, “The longer we wait to start doing projects, it will become more difficult to catch up.”