USD 800 million plan would create shrimp, fish estuaries in Gulf of Mexico

Published on
October 29, 2021
A plan to divert sediment from the Mississippi River may help build up fish and shrimp fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

A plan to divert sediment from the Mississippi River may help build up fish and shrimp fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

If U.S. officials approve the USD 800 million (EUR 689.1 million) plan, it will create more than 15,800 acres of new marshes in two U.S. states over a 50-year period and potentially nearly double that amount. The diversion would build up Louisiana’s delta would also help neighboring Mississippi, according to Chip Klein, the chair of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) board of directors.

In an article posted Monday, 25 October, in The Northside Sun, a Jackson, Mississippi-based publication, Klein said the Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion project would likely create more marsh habitats.

“Having more of Louisiana on the map is a good thing for the state of Mississippi from a hurricane surge protection standpoint and from an ecological standpoint,” Klein said.

The Mid-Breton is one of two sediment diversion projects proposed to replace land lost to coastal erosion. It’s slated to be built along the Mississippi River in Bertrandville, Louisiana, which is about 12 miles south of the city of New Orleans. According to the CPRA, the project would be paid for through the settlement BP reached following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

By establishing more marshlands, Klein said local fishermen would benefit through the new estuaries that would be created for shrimp and other fish in the Gulf Coast region.

However, opponents – including Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, a Republican and the former president of Plaquemines Parish, where Bertrandville is located – said the diversion project will lead to more freshwater entering the Mississippi Sound, which they claim would be disastrous to marine life. In May, Nungesser wrote a guest opinion column in The Daily Advertiser claiming the proposed diversion project would take water from one of the most-polluted rivers in the U.S. and dump it in an area where there’s little flow, which means pollution would settle in an area rich with marine life. 

Others who oppose the proposal say the diversion would have a similar impact on the sound as the Bonnet Carre spillway, which has sharply depressed Louisiana’s landings of oysters, shrimp, crab, and finfish, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Kline said the diversion project’s peak flow would be 75,000 cubic feet per second. The Bonnet Carre’s maximum flow is more than three times that amount.

The CPRA filed a permit with the U.S. Army in March 2019 for the project. Based on the current timeline posted on the Army Corps of Engineers website on the project, a draft environmental impact statement will be released in November 2022. Public meetings on the draft statement would be held after that. The final impact statement is scheduled to be issued in December 2023. A decision on the project is expected to take place around February 2024.

Photo courtesy of Sam Brandon/Shutterstock

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