Less than half of the water, and just 19 percent of the sediments, carried in the Mississippi River past the Atchafalaya make it to the Gulf. The finding casts new light on the potential of diversions to create land in adjacent basins — a key strategy in the state's $50 billion plan to save southeast Louisiana from washing away.
Alternatives to plugging the crevasse include conduits beneath the levee or a bridge over the gap. These moves would buy time while scientists determine the pros and cons of this "free" diversion project and its potential impact on other projects planned as part of the struggle to rebuild a vanishing coast.
When the swollen Mississippi broke through to feed a marsh during Carnival 2011, it seemed to some like an alternative to the multi-million-dollar man-made diversion planned nearby. But conflicting views over whether to let 'Mardi Gras Pass' run wild are a perfect example of how complex coastal restoration issues can be.
New technology has revealed that southeast Louisiana is sinking faster than previously known. Combined with rising seas due to global warming, a leading scientist says waters will rise "at least four feet." With more communities closer to open water, even minor hurricanes could cause catastrophic damage.