Solutions for a sustainable coast must ultimately address a complex array of scientific, environmental, engineering, and socio-economic challenges.
The sustainability of the Delta system has been a concern to scientists and policy makers for many years. Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with overall responsibility for management of the Mississippi River for flood control and navigation, and the State of Louisiana have been engaged in major planning initiatives to address this issue over the course of the last decade. The State of Louisiana’s 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan offers an important step forward, prioritizing the projects the State and Federal government are now undertaking to combat coastal erosion.
The dual role that Mississippi River sediment plays in the region—as both the Delta’s life source and a key challenge for the navigation industry—has never fully been jointly explored within the context of Delta restoration. While the science and engineering of how these roles can be managed together is complex, significant work has been started to identify holistic solutions.
The State’s 2012 Master Plan and its current implementation are building on this work, suggesting, for example, that a “channel realignment” of the lower River may have impressive land-building potential, and that in combination with upstream sediment diversions, almost all of the River’s sediment load could potentially be captured and utilized for land-building, while minimizing the role of these sediments in clogging the navigation channel.
In designing solutions for a sustainable coast, Changing Course’s competitors must work within the Master Plan’s framework, and will specifically address that unsolved challenge identified in the plan—how to maximize use of the Mississippi River’s water and sediment toward its mouth to rebuild Delta wetlands while continuing to meet the needs of navigation and coastal industries, and providing risk reduction for communities. Furthermore, any proposed solutions must allow for the continuing operation of river-based navigation during any construction or alignment phase.