New Orleans — If there’s one underlying assumption that’s been used to justify the $50 billion cost of Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, it’s this: We actually have a chance to prevent southeast Louisiana from drowning in the Gulf because the Mississippi River carries the mud and sand necessary to keep pace with sea-level rise.
Turns out that assumption was a best guess.
In fact, the definitive evidence for the state’s claim that the river carries hope for the coast is just now being collected. A small army of state and federal researchers has embarked on the first-ever comprehensive study of the lower river.
The Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study is a massive $25 million, five-year project begun in 2011 that seeks to provide detailed information about the building materials that today’s river can offer restoration projects. In particular:
The restoration effort relies centrally on diversions, places where the levees lining the Mississippi River will be breached to allow sediment-rich waters to flood and replenish adjacent basins, creating coastal marsh and new land. Currently, nine such diversions are planned between New Orleans and the Gulf.
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