It is discouraging that more than three years after completion of the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Project opened in St. Charles Parish, it is operating at a maximum of only three percent of its intended capacity.
The $80 million project planned to help save our wetlands can pump only 400 cubic feet per second from the Mississippi River into the wetlands. It was supposed to have the capacity to pump 10,200 cubic feet per second.
At the present rate, it is having a trickling effect in providing the fresh water our coast needs while the Gulf of Mexico is pouring tons of salt water into our protective marshes to kill vegetation. As that vegetation dies, we are losing some 50 square miles of coast every year - - 250 square miles last year because of Hurricane Katrina. At that rate, the coast of Louisiana will soon be gone and so will the country’s biggest commercial fish estuary and our main safeguard against hurricane surges.
The problem is the rock wier that separates Lake Cataouatchie from the ponding area for the project. Water is not getting through it fast enough. And if any more water is allowed to flow into the ponding area from the Mississippi River, it overflows the side levees that protect populated areas. More money will be needed to correct it, the Corps says. And more time.
Davis Pond is the largest project so far in our efforts to save the coast. More diversions of fresh water and river sediment are needed in addition to the building up of barrier islands to do the job.
The recent passage of a bill by Congress to provide some additional offshore royalties to Louisiana and other coastal states in the future could make a difference in getting the money needed for the projects. Meanwhile, we have to get the most benefit out of the projects we have. And that includes Davis Pond.
We have been trying to restore our coast for some 40 or 50 years and we’re not half done. We don’t have that much time left.