Rising Mississippi River: Implications for Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands

Rising Mississippi River: Implications for Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands

Expert Interview and B-Roll Opportunities

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

At 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 10, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will open the Bonnet Carré Spillway, which is upriver from New Orleans, and potentially will open the Morganza Floodway, which diverts excess floodwater from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin, a few days later. These openings are due to unusually early flood conditions on the Mississippi River – a result of heavy winter rainfall throughout much of the Mississippi River’s drainage basin. Twenty-nine deaths and loss of property in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma are a stark reminder of how dangerous Mississippi River floods can be.

While these high-water events are important reminders of the need to manage the Mississippi River for flood protection, they also highlight the opportunity to leverage the power and sediment of the Mississippi River to address Louisiana’s land loss crisis.

When opened, the Bonnet Carré Spillway can shunt up to 250,000 cubic feet per second of sediment-laden water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain to reduce pressure on the river levees and prevent flooding. This sediment could go to rebuilding Louisiana’s wetlands – and this is not the only area where precious sediment is being wasted. Over the last two years alone, approximately 176 million tons of sediment has been transported down the river and much of that has escaped through the mouth of the Mississippi River and off the outer continental shelf – beyond where it can be of any immediate use to restoration efforts.

Louisiana’s coastline is losing a football field of land ever hour, largely due to a lack of sediment from the river replenishing starving wetlands. During high-water events like this one, the river contains more water and sediment than usual. Without restoration projects like sediment diversions in place to utilize this influx of sediment for coastal restoration, this vital component for restoring our coast are lost. In the future, when sediment diversions are put in place, we’ll be able to utilize the increase sediment for coastal restoration and manage flood waters through many valves. The Louisiana Legislature and Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Board are set to vote to fund the advancement of two sediment diversions in Plaquemines Parish, Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions, in the months ahead.

Experts from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition will be available for interviews at the Corps’ press conference on Sunday, January 10 as well as in the days leading up to and the weeks following the opening. They can discuss the need to use the natural power of the river – and the sediment it holds – to restore Louisiana’s degraded coastal wetlands.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Press Conference Details

WHEN: Sunday, January 10, 2016
WHERE: Bonnet Carré Spillway, 16302 River Rd, Norco, LA 70079
EXPERTS: Steve Cochran, Campaign Director, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition and Associate Vice President for Coastal Protection, Environmental Defense Fund
John A. Lopez, Ph.D., Executive Director, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
David Muth, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Douglas J. Meffert, D. Env., MBA, Executive Director, National Audubon Society (Audubon Louisiana)
Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation