NEW ORLEANS — The health of the Gulf of Mexico depends on, and is interdependent with, the health and management of the Mississippi River Delta and coastal Louisiana, speakers told the federal Ocean Policy Task Force on Monday.
Robert Twilley, professor with the department of oceanography and coastal sciences at LSU, said the aggressive loss of wetlands in Louisiana needs to be met with an equally aggressive adaptation of how the river is managed.
The sediment carried by the river is needed if a sustainable coastal landscape is going to be developed, he said.
Although the coast can’t be rebuilt to what it once was, “we can built a smarter coastal footprint,” Twilley said.
Paul Harrison, senior director for Mississippi River for Environmental Defense Fund, agreed and said it’s important for the task force to understand that the health of the Gulf of Mexico is tied to the health of the Mississippi River delta.
Improving the health of the coastal area in turn depends on reconnecting river resources with the coastal wetlands, Harrison said, and doing so will take a coordinated federal effort among many agencies.
If federal agencies don’t deal with the collapse of the delta ecological system, then the solutions of how the Gulf of Mexico will be managed will be much different, he said.
The task force was formed earlier this year by President Barack Obama to develop a national ocean, coastal and Great Lakes policy as well as come up with recommendations on ecosystem planning.
More than 300 people attended the task force’s fifth regional meeting where the panel heard from state officials, scientists and coastal nonprofit organization representatives.
Mark Davis, director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane University, urged the task force to remember that the upriver health contributes to coastal and ocean health.
“Oceans don’t begin and end with blue water,” Davis said.
The river is managed as a navigation portal and through a number of federal acts “but we don’t manage it as a river,” Davis said.
Denise Reed, professor with the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of New Orleans, said although there’s not as much sediment coming down the river as there was historically, there’s still a substantial amount — enough to fill the Louisiana Superdome 11 times every year.
Reed said that sediment is needed to help sustain and build marsh as it was once done before the levees were built.
“The future of coastal Louisiana is intimately related to how we decide to manage the lower Mississippi River,” Reed said. ......
from: 'Panel: Gulf, river interdependent' by Amy Wold, The Advocate