One would never think this country is in a major drought judging from the amount of rainfall hitting Louisiana in recent weeks. But it is dry in much of the rest of the country, which has attracted damaging forest fires in many areas.
The drought, however, has provided a major problem for our state by causing a record low river level for this time of year.
Usually the Mississippi River is rolling south at great speed in late spring and early summer with the melting ice from up north filling it up. But due to the drought, it is not high enough to push the salt water from the Gulf of Mexico back out of our wetlands.
The river level at this time is 2.4 feet above sea level compared with a 9.8 foot average stage during July. Even the Davis Pond Fresh Water Diversion Project in St. Charles has not been able to divert fresh water from the river into Lake Cataouatche and other areas of the Barataria Basin to keep the salt water out.
When that happens, the wetlands suffer by the destruction of plant life and wildlife habitats. And further erosion of our coast takes place.
When the levees were built in the early 1900s, it started a long history of a receding coast in Louisiana, which has come to an emergency status. We have struggled for many years trying to get the plans and financing for restoring the fresh water flow into our coast. The state recently completed definite plans for doing it.
The drought conditions, hopefully, are only a condition of nature that will interrupt those plans only temporarily. The coast of Louisiana is too valuable and important an asset for us to send it out to sea.