The Mid-Barataria sediment diversion: Fact vs. Fiction
By James Karst, Director of Communications and Marketing
Our state has lost more than 2,000 square miles of its coast in less than a century, and it’s losing more by the minute. It’s a massive and complicated problem, with a number of contributing factors. But one of the biggest is the artificial restricting of the Mississippi River within levees, choking off the regular introduction of nutrient-rich sediment into our coastal wetlands.
The construction of levees, which began more than 300 years ago, was the solution to river flooding, but it came with catastrophic long-term consequences. Paradoxically, the solution to flooding from the river made all of south Louisiana more vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes and storm surge. Managing the problem is fundamental to coastal restoration; without it, we are leaving our most powerful tool on the table.
That’s why the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is Louisiana’s most important coastal restoration project to date. It will reconnect the river to adjacent wetlands and restore the natural balance that built south Louisiana in the first place. There are genuine concerns about potential negative impacts associated with the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, and the State of Louisiana is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on mitigation. But choosing not to build the project is not a viable option if people and communities are going to continue to live and thrive across our region.
Unfortunately, a disinformation campaign designed to mobilize opposition to the project has involved cherry-picking slivers of truth and embellishing them to shape a misleading narrative about the ability of the diversion to create and sustain land; about the effects on fishing and wildlife; and about the rate at which coastal parishes will vanish into the Gulf without it.
The disingenuous attacks have found some receptive audiences. But the vast majority of Louisiana residents statewide support sediment diversions. An overwhelming majority of the residents of St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes also support sediment diversions. The bottom line is that the people and communities of south Louisiana demand healthy wetlands, hurricane and storm surge protection and fisheries that are sustainable now and in the future -- not false promises about alternatives that are too little -- and too late.
Let’s take a look at some of the misinformation about the project and set the record straight.
The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is being imposed upon community members who do not want it.
Residents have been included in discussions about the project from the beginning. Over the past 4 years, CPRA has held 316 meetings with elected and parish officials, members of the seafood and recreation industries, communities near the project site, and nonprofit and stakeholder groups, as well as the general public. A total of 12,000 stakeholders have participated. These meetings and outreach are ongoing, as the state works to move the project forward to restore our wetlands while also developing a stewardship and mitigation plan to address any potential impacts. Independent polling conducted in 2018 found that 79% of Louisiana residents supported sediment diversions. In Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, 70% of residents polled supported sediment diversions. Polling conducted this year showed even stronger support, statewide and in Plaquemines and St. Bernard.