Recommendations for Operating a Sediment Diversion that Balances Ecosystem and Community Needs

By Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

This is part one of the series “Building Land in Coastal Louisiana: Expert Recommendations for Operating a Successful Sediment Diversion that Balances Ecosystem and Community Needs.” This series will explore key recommendations for operating sediment diversions as outlined by the independent Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group.

Natalie Peyronnin

Natalie Peyronnin

The use of sediment diversions, a restoration tool that mimics the natural processes of the Mississippi River to build and sustain land, has been proposed for decades in coastal Louisiana. While we move closer to construction of a sediment diversion, the issues surrounding how the reintroduction of fresh water and sediment will impact the ecosystem, including important fish and wildlife species, and the communities that live, work and play in the basin, require close monitoring and planning.

The state of Louisiana, through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), will be required to develop an Operation and Adaptive Management Plan that lays out strategies that need to be considered when operating a sediment diversion to maximize land building, while balancing the needs of the ecosystem and communities.

To help CPRA with developing these strategies, the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group was formed. The working group consisted of 12 interdisciplinary scientists with a wide range of on-the-ground expertise in coastal Louisiana. Together, they released a report with the goal of providing specific recommendations to begin a robust discussion on operation strategies to be considered for CPRA’s plan.

The working group members, along with over 40 guest experts, discussed, debated and documented complex issues such as wetland health, basin geology, fish and wildlife species and socio-economics. The resulting recommendations are included in the report, Building Land in Coastal Louisiana: Expert Recommendations for Operating a Successful Sediment Diversion that Balances Ecosystem and Community Needs.

Five of the topics key to the successful operation of a sediment diversion – sediment, hydrodynamics, vegetation, socio-economics, and fish and wildlife – will be explored further in this blog series written by experts in their respective subject. This series is intended to further detail these important topics that will become extremely relevant once a diversion is constructed.

View the other parts of our series “Building Land in Coastal Louisiana: Expert Recommendations for Operating a Successful Sediment Diversion that Balances Ecosystem and Community Needs” on Hydrodynamics of a sediment diversionGeology of land building using sediment diversionsBuilding land while balancing historic and cultural effects and Vegetation

Natalie Peyronnin is the director of science policy for EDF's Mississippi River Delta Restoration program and the convener of the Sediment Diversion Operations Expert Working Group. She works to ensure sound science is being utilized to plan, design, implement and adaptively manage projects and policies, with a focus on system dynamics. Natalie was a Senior Scientist for Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, where she served as the technical lead and science communicator for the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Natalie also worked as Science Director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Natalie has a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Management, with minors in Forestry and Zoology & Physiology from Louisiana State University, as well as an M.S. in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences from Louisiana State University.