New land pops to the surface in the West Bay Diversion

Published: Aug. 26, 2016 at 6:04 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2016 at 7:27 PM CDT
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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Cattle rancher Earl Armstrong has long championed the West Bay Diversion Project south of Venice.

This week in low tide, Armstrong showed off new sand bars that recently popped to the surface after a year of unusually high water levels on the Mississippi River.

Ten years ago, "You'd have been standing in six or seven feet of water," Armstrong said.

In 2003, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers poked a hole in the east bank of the Mississippi River with the aim of mimicking the river's land-building powers.

"Where we are right here, you pretty much would be standing in the middle of the bay," Armstrong said as he stood in four inches of water next to a new island.

Perhaps even more impressive are the acres and acres of "land" poised to pop to the surface in future years.

"You can go around with an airboat and find those spots, and I can show you plenty of them," Armstrong said.

Unlike the massive diversion projects the state plans farther upriver, West Bay has no control structure or expensive guide levees.
Instead, nature was left to take its course as part of an experiment.

Not far from the river's mouth, the West Bay project does not involve the same controversy about pouring fresh water into salty fisheries.

Armstrong said the river is now carving new channels in West Bay and a new marsh is building between a couple of man-made islands formed from dredge material.

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