Questions loom over diversion effectiveness after last week’s congregation of scientists and coastal protection advocates met in Baton Rouge to discuss the release of the State’s 2015 Coastal Master Plan.
With the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) Master Plan nearing action, several attendees showed concern as to whether or not the CPRA’s 10 planned diversions would be beneficial or detrimental to Louisiana’s rapidly deteriorating coastline.
Scientists and engineers from across the U.S. came together at this public session—in the form of a panel—to begin reviewing the State’s plans to build sediment and freshwater diversions along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. This panel is working under the Water Institute of the Gulf, and was formed to provide expert advice and recommendations on projects in the Master Plan.
The CPRA, in its many public hearings, has promised massive amounts of land creation with its proposed sediment diversions. However, panelists stated that there are serious uncertainties concerning these diversions—the most costly coastal restoration projects in the Master Plan. Some of these uncertainties included whether or not the proposed diversions will fulfill the legal mandate that the State’s Coastal Plan projects are economically and environmentally sound. Other expert testimony was distrustful of the CPRA’s diversion benefit analysis.
Furthermore, many questioned whether the Mississippi carries enough sediment to rebuild new land and wetlands or to keep existing wetlands above rising sea levels, whether the diversions will disrupt the navigation channel in the Mississippi and threaten the nation’s shipping industry, and whether the freshwater will disrupt existing fisheries and fishermen.
Captain George Ricks, President of the Save Louisiana Coalition, as well as Brigadier General Duke DeLuca, Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River Valley Division voiced their opinions on the matter.
Deluca said that though the Corps is not totally against diversions, “we do have a mandate to understand holistically the true benefits, true costs and true impacts” of the proposed projects.
DeLuca pointed out that the Wax Lake Outlet, hailed as a prime example of diversionary land building, only created 250 acres per year of new land between 1983 and 2010.
Ricks shares DeLuca’s views on the Wax Lake red herring, and testified that some of the proposed diversions in the State’s Master Plan will crush several parishes’ economies as well as negatively impact the State’s restaurant and tourism industries.
“The CPRA continues to earnestly move forward with these diversion plans,” said Ricks, “despite evidence against their claims of economic and environmental soundness.”
Ricks said the Save Louisiana Coalition is working closely with Louisiana’s coastal parishes most affected by the State’s diversion proposals and will continue to push for better uses of the State’s limited coastal protection funding.