The Bayou Bienvenue Wetlands Triangle, a 400-acre cypress “ghost swamp” in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, demonstrates the coastal land loss problem that extends throughout the Mississippi River Delta. The delta was built over thousands of years by the water, sand, and mud of the Mississippi River. But factors like the construction of levees, oil and gas canals, and shipping channels along this “working coast” have halted the natural delta-building process and allowed salt water to penetrate deep into coastal wetlands, killing vegetation and destroying some of the most productive habitat in the world. The Mississippi River Delta has lost more than one million acres of wetlands, forests, and barrier islands since 1932. In fact, Louisiana loses one football field of wetlands each hour. As the world witnessed during Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of the wetlands – a natural buffer to storm surges and winds – has made communities like the Lower 9th Ward increasingly vulnerable to storms.
The need to restore the Mississippi River Delta and protect communities has never been more urgent. There is good news: There are solutions. We can restore the wetlands by rebuilding critical areas of the coast and by strategically reintroducing the Mississippi River’s fresh water and sediment to the wetlands. We need your voice!
Current Status of Restoration
On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina underscored the importance of wetlands when the storm overwhelmed levees along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) and catastrophically flooded communities. After the Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Congress de-authorized the MRGO and directed the Corps to restore the ecosystem impacted by the channel. Although two closures have been constructed, a rock dam across the channel near Bayou la Loutre in St. Bernard Parish and a surge barrier at the infamous funnel, virtually nothing has been done to restore the wetlands lost due to the MRGO. The Corps MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Plan Feasibility Report for this restoration, including a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, was completed in 2012 and sent to Congress in 2013. In 2012, the Louisiana State Legislature unanimously passed the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan for Restoration and Protection. This plan lays out projects for comprehensive restoration in the MRGO ecosystem. The projects, many of which align with the Army Corps plan, will advance subject to funding.
Both the Corps and State plans were developed with significant input and advocacy from community groups and Non-Governmental Organizations, and they need major support to proceed. Our groups will continue to engage with the State, Corps, and other decision-makers to see these critical restoration projects move forward and we need your support. This restoration effort is critical to sustaining the coastal ecosystem surrounding the Greater New Orleans area and protecting communities from future storms.
One source of funding for these projects is through the RESTORE Act, which will send billions of dollars to the Gulf Coast for ecosystem restoration. This funding is subject to the assessment of Clean Water Act penalties due from responsible parties involved in the BP Oil Disaster of 2010, which is currently being litigated. Even so, restoration project lists that will benefit from the RESTORE Act are currently being made by federal, state, and local governments. We are in the midst of an important opportunity to ensure MRGO-area projects are in line to receive funding. You can help make sure decision-makers prioritize the projects that will protect the Greater New Orleans area and restore the coastal habitat that has been destroyed. Learn more about our efforts and how you can support restoration here: www.MRGOmustGo.org