There was good news at the State of the Coast conference on Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts this week in New Orleans. According to Garret Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, our state hopes to launch a new diversion of Mississippi River water and sediment into the Barataria Basin to build up the wetlands.
It appears that this new effort will be much larger than any other development in our slow journey towards a stable coast. It will initially divert up to 50,000 cubic feet per second through a structure on the West Bank, which could eventually be increased up to 250,000 cubic feet per second. In comparison, our Davis Pond Fresh Water Diversion Project on the West Bank of St. Charles was designed to divert some 10,000 square feet of fresh water per second. And at the present time, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has work underway on a diversion near Myrtle Grove that will divert only 15,000 cubic feet per second.
Our state project is expected to cost $284 million compared to $417 million for the smaller Corps project. Which indicates we should concentrate on state efforts to save our coast and get what we can from the federal government to help pay for saving the nation’s coast.
There’s more than just diverting river water and sediment in saving our coast. We also must rebuild our barrier islands, which are our first line of defense, and plant vegetation that will help hold any rebuilt land in place.
But fresh water diversions offer a long term and perhaps least costly way of keeping the Gulf waters out of the interior of our state where they cause the erosion that has been destroying our coast.
There has been some objections to diversions from the fishing industry for the way they relocate fishing areas. But in the long run, they can preserve the land we have and create new and more plentiful sport and commercial fisheries in our state.
Much of the future of Louisiana’s coast rests with passage of the Restore Act, which has been stymied in Congress as part of the transportation spending bill that Congress has not been able to pass as yet. The act itself has support from President Obama and Congress but the bigger measure is holding it back from passage.
With so much paperwork going on in Washington, it seems we could draft something that would put it in line for passage. If not, then we do not have a very efficient democracy and it needs to be changed.
The act would provide 80 percent of revenue from the fines resulting from the BP oil spill to the four gulf coast states most affected by it. Louisiana could go a long way in repairing our coast and insuring it from future oil spills and other encroachments with that revenue.
Included would be restoring barrier islands and marshland, which protect our shores from offshore oil spills and further erosion of our coast.
This has nothing to do with transportation which seems to be holding up its passage. And our senators and congressmen need to find a way to bypass this obstruction.
And in so doing, perhaps they can uncover a new way to make our national government a more effective instrument of democracy for our people.