Posted on September 30, 2022
After years of planning and debate about its effects on the coast, Louisiana’s diversion project to rebuild marshland in the Barataria Basin appears to be ready to go.
Federal and state trustees overseeing the funding of what could be a $2.26 billion project are poised to approve the money. Earlier, an environmental impact statement years in the making was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The money will come from settlements to lawsuits and penalties from the 2010 BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.
When the diversion is complete, Mississippi River water will flow into the Barataria Basin to build new land in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes.
River sediments built the old coastline, eons before the levees constricted the Mississippi’s flow. Today’s coastal restoration project seeks to mimic those results over decades ahead.
It’s a massive endeavor not only because of the price tag, but because it is almost unprecedented in its scope. It will be studied as rising seas and, in Louisiana, subsiding soil levels threaten coastlines around the world.
The project has drawn some criticism as a threat to oyster fisheries, including from Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a former Plaquemines Parish president. But the environmental impact statement and the report of the funding trustees provide for hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate harmful consequences on the coast and its fisheries.
The trustee study concluded that the benefits of the diversion — the potential to add 21 square miles of new wetlands in the basin by 2070 and improve living conditions for a variety of wildlife types — more than outweigh the detrimental effects.
This project is a very big deal, with long-term consequences for the state’s coastal program. We look forward to its completion.