For most of the Delta’s history, its residents adapted to life within the natural ebbs and flows of the dynamic Mississippi River Delta. In the late 18th century, industrialization brought about a change of perspective. Dams, levees, and river structures were built; the South and Southwest Passes were tamed. For many years and in many ways, this system has served us well.
After almost one hundred and fifty years of adapting nature, we are at or near a point where this approach is no longer sustainable. Channelization of the river has forced its rich sediment to bypass the wetland landscapes it once replenished. The Delta, as a whole, has ceased to grow naturally. Valuable and protective wetlands are disappearing at alarming rates, putting the economy, ecology, and cultures of the Delta at risk. Maintaining the course of a channelized river is not an option for those that rely on the Delta – locally, nationally, and globally.
Historically the Delta grew by about 750 acres/year but the Delta has been losing land at a rate of at least 12,000 acres/year for the last 50 years. To keep up, we must target the creation of 12,000 acres of land every year, year after year. Every year we fall short of the target, the area that can be sustained as the Delta becomes smaller. The need to act has never been greater. And land building is a slow process. We must begin soon.
This website outlines a carefully-crafted, bold, and strategic set of actions that aim to recapture the full sediment load of the river. We believe that nothing short of these actions can overcome the potential losses. Costly and conservative approaches have not worked well enough to date. Only bold action can create new land, protecting and expanding the incredibly rich heritage, ecologies, and economies of the Delta.
This proposed approach is one of three submitted to the design competition, Changing Course. The competition brought together teams of the world’s best engineers, scientists, planners, and designers to create a self-sustaining delta ecosystem for generations to come. To learn more about the competition, head to the competition website.