POINTE À LA HACHE, La. – Louisiana's plan for saving its coast is expected to cost $50 billion and take 50 years to carry out. Yet one of the most promising recent developments in coastal restoration has so far cost the state nothing and required no one to lift a finger.

In late February and early March 2012, while the Mardi Gras parades rolled upriver, the Mississippi took matters into its own hands, punching a hole through its own banks just below Pointe à la Hache and pouring sediment into the surrounding swamps.

It was coastal scientist John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation who first dubbed this cleft Mardi Gras Pass, and he's now giving it credit for actually starting the work that Louisiana has yet to muster the resources to pursue.

Coastal restoration efforts also got a boost from the BP settlement in July.

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