Massive Mid-Barataria Diversion Project breaks ground

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 4:37 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Hundreds of people gathered Thurs., Aug. 10 to mark the initiation of Louisiana’s most extensive coastal project endeavor as construction begins for the Mid-Barataria Diversion Project.

After years of discussions and planning, the ambitious initiative has finally broken ground, set to reshape the coastal landscape and fortify Louisiana’s vulnerable regions.

In the next three years, a two-mile-long stretch along the west bank of Plaquemines Parish below Myrtle will be transformed into a concrete channel.

State officials call it a game-changer.

“If we allow it to, it will shape our world for many years to come,” said Governor John Bel Edwards.

Mid Barataria diversion construction begins
Mid Barataria diversion construction begins(rob masson)

The Mid-Barataria diversion is designed to redirect a substantial amount of the Mississippi River’s water, up to 75,000 cubic feet per second, along with its crucial sediment, into Barataria Bay. This significant influx constitutes nearly 15% of the river’s flow. According to Bren Haase from the Louisiana Coastal Protection Authority, the project aims to restore the natural processes that originally formed the Louisiana coast.

“This project will return the natural process a built Louisiana in the first place,” said Haase.

The project’s costs have escalated to $2.9 billion, making it the largest coastal restoration project in state history.

“Since I’ve been governor, we’ve added 26,000 acres of land. This project will do that by itself,” said Edwards.

A graphic rendering of the proposed Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project
A graphic rendering of the proposed Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project(CPRA (custom credit) | CPRA)

The project has been on the drawing board for nearly 10 years and has drawn concern from fishermen every step of the way.

“In 50 years I’m not going to be here to enjoy the fruits or tell them that they’re wrong,” said Grand Isle shrimp processor Dean Blanchard.

An Army Corps impact study found that the introduction of large amounts of river water will have severe impacts on saltwater fish species, including dolphins.

A Louisiana shrimper heads out into Barataria Bay in this May 29, 2013 file photo (John Snell)
A Louisiana shrimper heads out into Barataria Bay in this May 29, 2013 file photo (John Snell)

No one denies that this diversion project will impact fishermen in this region, but state officials say money is available to help them deal with their economic loss.

“There is $400 million to assist fisheries and adjust to changes in the basin,” said Haase.

If all goes as planned, those changes will begin occurring in the next three to five years.

“I understand the anxiety, but we’re protecting the livelihoods of everyone along the Gulf of Mexico,” said Edwards.

Concerns have also surfaced about potential implications for saltwater intrusion in Southern Plaquemines Parish. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) clarified that during low river levels, the diversion will be curtailed to safeguard existing municipal water systems from further harm.

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