A DELTA FOR ALL. Our concept is a Delta that can be sustained by the river and natural marsh building processes for the coming centuries. When the Mississippi River flowed naturally, without human intervention (via dams, levees, and channelization), it deposited sediment across the Delta to maintain and build new land. To sustain the Delta today, we have to harness the full land-building potential of the great Mississippi River. We are losing land far too quickly and we must strive to capture every grain to stem that land-loss and rebuild.
We propose that new river mouths be opened and managed over time to receive the river’s sediment, building land and wetlands where they have the best chance of success. The result will be a more compact, robust Deltaic landscape from Vermilion Bay to Mississippi Sound for generations and centuries to come, a Sustainable Delta.
Our approach delivers immediate gains by reducing flood risk and related uncertainty for the Delta’s people; opening huge opportunities for navigation and marine commerce; and helping maintain and expand its economies. Most of the immediate gains result from “taking the river out of the channel.”
HOW IT WORKS. Since the Mississippi River naturally builds land by depositing sediment along its banks we aim to build new land by harnessing that very process: by opening new river mouths in targeted locations for certain periods of time we can replenish land more efficiently and successfully than we have to date.
The foundation of our plan is a series of new river mouths or outlets strategically located throughout the Delta to build new sub-Deltas with land and wetlands. Think of these as a series of faucets across the Delta that can be turned on or off (up or down) to deliver water and sediment in a strategic manner. Many of these “faucets” already exist. We want to build on existing infrastructure to help bring the Delta back to life, restoring natural processes that are proven to build the Delta. We are “taking the river out of the channel.” To maximize land building by fully harnessing the river’s potential, we propose that all new river mouths should be constructed upstream of English Turn. By taking the river out of the channel, tremendous flood risk reduction and shipping advantages will also result.
This approach is purposely bold because we can no longer afford to be anything less than bold. To recapture land at a rate that offsets 1) the rate of land loss, 2) the rate of rising sea levels and 3) subsidence (sinking of land), we need to harness 100 percent of the land-building potential of the river. It not only is our best shot at making the delta as large as possible, it also makes economic sense for us to move away from relying as heavily on dredging, which is costly.
However, before embarking on an this bold path, we definitely need to hear more from the community to help shape a solution that minimizes disruption, makes the right trade-offs, and yields the best results for the most people.
We would need to work with communities to figure out where, when, and for how long, these new river mouths would be opened or closed, for example. Being able to “turn the faucet on or off” gives the Delta region control over how to mitigate disruption to local communities and industries.
This bold solution will give the Delta region its best shot at rebuilding the most land. It’s time to change course to give the Delta region a vibrant future.
A Sustainable Delta for Generations to Come
The changes we propose to save the Delta are ambitious and will make Louisiana a world leader in making coasts more resilient. Securing the future of the Delta through land building with the river will require changes in all aspects of the Delta – its economy, ecology, and culture. Many of the changes will be positive from the outset; others will require time and transition. We have begun outlining these transition strategies, but we will certainly need input from a lot of people to make sure that we make wise choices that best benefit the region. We are confident that the proposed approach will ensure a more stable, productive, and sustainable delta for all for generations to come and we invite you to learn more about our ideas and contribute to developing them further.