State Moves Forward With 2 River Diversion Projects Below New Orleans

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana is moving ahead with plans to divert the Mississippi River's sediment and freshwater below New Orleans.

         On Wednesday, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, a panel overseeing coastal work in south Louisiana, voted to continue work on the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton river diversion projects.

         The two diversions would flush sediment and freshwater into estuaries on the east and west sides of the Mississippi River in an effort to rebuild land.

         Kyle Graham, the executive director of the CPRA, told the board that 40,000 acres of land could be created over time by the two diversions.

         At the same meeting in the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, the CPRA voted to abandon two river diversion projects at the river's mouth. State coastal scientists had determined that those diversions would not create as much land as previously hoped.

         Graham said modeling by the state shows that the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton diversions would not cause "catastrophic changes" for fishermen in the basins where the diversions would be built.

         Fishermen oppose the state building more river diversions because they say the fresh river water kills oysters and hurts shrimp catches.

         With the board's approval on Wednesday, the state can now move on to working out engineering and design problems and seeking federal permits. Officials said they expect to spend up to three years designing the diversions.

         The Mid-Barataria diversion, slated to be built in Plaquemines Parish, would move at most 75,000 cubic feet per second of sediment and water into Barataria Bay. The Mid-Breton diversion is slated to be built on the other side of the Mississippi and push at most 35,000 cubic feet of water and sediment into the Breton Sound.

         The diversions are part of a 50-year, $50 billion master plan the state developed to combat land loss. The state has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of coast since the 1930s due to a variety of factors, including building levees that interrupted the land-building processes of the Mississippi River and allowing oil and gas drilling to take place across the coast.

         This story has been corrected to show that 40,000 not, 47,000 acres of land, could be created by the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton river diversion projects.

         – by AP Reporter Cain Burdeau




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