Is there enough sediment in the river to restore the delta?
The Mississippi River Delta is a dynamic landscape where water and wetlands are constantly shifting with natural patterns of erosion and growth. Because of this, there has never been enough sediment to sustain the entire delta at one time—there have always been areas that are actively growing and others disappearing. Recent decades have also seen the sediment supply of the Mississippi River cut in half by dams upriver. Still, the amount of available sediment is large enough to build and sustain wetlands in targeted areas of the coast.
Are sediment diversions useful tools for building land?
Large-scale problems require large-scale solutions. The Mississippi River built the land that makes up coastal Louisiana, and there are many examples across our region where we see the power of the river building land. By leveraging the natural land-building power of the river to move sediment and fresh water into nearby basins, sediment diversions have the potential to build and sustain substantial amounts of land. The best-available science and modeling shows us that sediment diversions are a key project type to use to achieve comprehensive restoration.
Will diversions introduce nutrients that harm wetland vegetation?
Although nutrients introduced by diversions will have some impacts on vegetation, the cost of inaction is higher. Without large-scale restoration that provides a source of sediment and fresh water, the delta's wetlands will continue to degrade into open water. Any negative effects of higher nutrient input are outweighed by the larger restoration benefits for the entire coast.
Will sediment diversions harm fisheries?
Species will react in different ways to changes in the coastal landscape, but research indicates that large-scale sediment diversions can support the overall health of fisheries by returning the system to a more sustainable baseline. Independent scientists have found that sediment diversions can be operated in a manner that builds land, while also considering effects to the ecosystem, wildlife and fisheries. Without action, the continued loss of land will be even more hurtful for fisheries and the communities dependent on them.
How will restoration affect navigation?
Land loss in the Mississippi River Delta threatens the long-term viability of Louisiana's navigation system. Since the 1920s, the river has been straitjacketed by a levee system known as the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project, which is responsible for a large amount of land loss in the region. Revising the current management scheme and conducting large-scale restoration is the best way to protect this vital navigation system over time.
Can levees alone provide enough flood protection?
As recent disasters have shown, levees alone cannot be relied on to provide all the protection needed for coastal communities and infrastructure. In some cases, by damaging wetlands and encouraging unwise development, levees actually increase exposure to flood and storm risks. Levees should be one of multiple lines of defense, and coastal restoration should be prioritized to reduce the strain on our levee systems. Our communities need the buffer provided by coastal wetlands so that we are not relying solely on levees.
Will restoration measures displace communities?
Some communities will be affected by salinity changes and a shift in coastal resources, but the larger threat lies in continued land loss. Without restoration, coastal residents will grow increasingly vulnerable to flooding and other disasters. Ultimately, the lack of restoration will force people from their homes. However, by coordinating restoration, mitigation and resiliency projects, we can provide the best possible outcomes for communities.
What does the economy stand to lose if we do not restore the delta?
The economy of coastal Louisiana is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Without restoration, the region’s—and nation’s—economic health is at serious risk. The state of Louisiana supports the U.S. economy by providing:
- $9.3 billion per year in tourism
- Nearly 30 percent of the commercial fishing landings of the continental U.S.
- $1.8 billion annual impact from recreational fishing
- Five of the nation's 15 largest shipping ports by cargo volume, handling one-fifth of all waterborne commerce in the U.S.
- More crude oil production than any other single state
Why should restoring the delta be a national priority?
Coastal Louisiana is an economic engine that feeds, fuels and connects the nation. Our region is facing a land loss crisis that affects the entire nation, and addressing it should be a national priority. Ensuring the safety of the region's navigation, flood control, energy production and commercial fishing industries will benefit the entire country. Each of these industries is at severe risk from the degradation of the region's coastal wetlands. Additionally, the region is home to roughly 2 million people who live, work and depend on the coast. These people have contributed to a culture that is a unique and national treasure worth preserving.
Is restoration feasible given sea level rise?
Climate change and sea level rise pose significant threats to the delta's current management system. Maintaining the status quo will be disastrous for communities, wildlife, economies, navigation, flood protection and restoration efforts. However, by addressing land loss, the delta can be put on a sustainable path, even with sea level rise. By rebuilding wetlands, we can not only improve the long-term viability of the region but also provide an innovative, best-in-class example for other coastal communities facing rising seas and impacts of climate change.
Does Louisiana have enough money to fund its Coastal Master Plan?
The 2012 master plan has an estimated cost of $50 billion over 50 years—an ambitious price tag that matches the gravity of our coastal crisis. As a result of the BP settlement and the RESTORE Act, Louisiana will be receiving nearly $7 billion over the coming 15 years to implement coastal restoration projects. This is in addition to other federal sources of funding, including $176 million per year through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and $80 million per year through Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA). This funding presents the state with a huge opportunity to make a significant down payment on a more resilient future, by prioritizing the best coastal restoration projects that will provide the most significant benefits. Of course, more money will be needed over time, but our groups are committed to protecting existing funding and securing additional funding for the master plan.