A project that would divert a part of the mighty Mississippi River into coastal wetlands to help build and stabilize Louisiana’s shrinking coast took another step forward Wednesday.

The state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority announced that they will request proposals for a company to do an Environmental Impact Statement for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. The report, commonly referred to by the letters EIS, is a federally required way to looked at what impacts a project could have as well as allow an agency to gather public comment.

“This is a critical step that gets us closer to reconnecting the Mississippi River to our coastal marshes and estuaries in order to address our coastal land loss crisis,” Johnny Bradberry, Governor’s executive assistant for coastal activities, wrote in a press release. “While sediment diversions alone cannot solve our coastal crisis, they are a key component of the state’s Coastal Master Plan that must be implemented to save our coast.”

The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion would be the first major project to specifically target sediment in the river to build land along coastal wetlands. Louisiana has lost about 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s and the loss continues to occur for a number of reasons including sinking land, sea level rise, erosion, faults, a lack of sediment from the river and many more.

Diverting water and sediment from the river has been a part of multiple plans for coastal restoration over past decades and the announcement Wednesday received praise from coastal groups as a positive step toward a goal of breaking ground on the project by 2020.

“Given future challenges of sea level rise and continued land loss, the state must advance the most powerful restoration projects to match the severity of our crisis,” wrote a joint statement from the members of Restore the Mississippi River Delta. “Sediment diversions are a cornerstone of our state’s restoration plan that seeks to secure a sustainable future for coastal Louisiana’s people, industries, wildlife and abundant natural resources.”

Restore the Mississippi River Delta is made up of Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

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