State and federal representatives agreed Wednesday to study how much water and sediment are available in the Mississippi River for coastal restoration purposes, the best uses of those resources and what, if any, impact those uses would have on other river functions, such as navigation.
“We’ve talked a lot about the loss of land in Louisiana,” said Col. Ed Fleming, New Orleans district commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “There’s one instrument that will bring it back and that is the Mississippi River.”
Originally authorized under the Water Resources Development Act 2007 as two studies, the Mississippi River Hydrodynamic study and the Delta Management Study have since been combined into one effort, said Darrel Broussard, senior project manager with the corps.
The hydrodynamic study will develop a computer model of the river, including the flow of water and the amount of sediment carried along its path. The delta management portion will look at how that sediment and water can be used.
“This agreement is truly foundational for the future of Louisiana,” said Garret Graves, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
The agreement was several months in the making, mainly because there was a need to expand the scope of the study beyond just looking at the river for flood control and navigation management, Graves said.
Numerous coastal nonprofit groups were involved in talks with the corps, which helped to broaden the scope of the study, he said.
The study is essentially in two parts, with the first work being done on the hydrodynamic model to get a better idea of how much water and how much sediment is available in the river. In addition to the freshwater diversions of Davis Pond and Caernarvon, there are several relatively small diversions this computer model will include from the Old River Control Structure to the Gulf of Mexico.
Current models done on the river and on individual diversions along the river will be pulled together and meshed into the current work, Broussard said.
In areas where there is not current information available about the river conditions, $3 million has been set aside to collect that additional information, Broussard said.
In total, it will take about two years to complete this work, although there should be information available to start work on the delta management portion of the plan in about a year, said Bill Hicks, project manager with the corps.
Information from this model will be fed into work on the delta management plan, which will look at whether it’s feasible that building two large diversions on the lower river will build land, Hicks said.