Monday, June 6, 2011

Coastal Resilience on the Mississippi Delta

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When we decided that I would be accompanying Christine to the National Confer on Volunteering and Service in New Orleans this year I immediately emailed random colleagues with Louisiana Sea Grant in the hopes I could meet some of them. It turned out that Melissa Trosclair Daigle, Jim Wilkins, Kevin Crow (all from the LA Sea Grant Law and Policy Program) and Julie Falgout from Marine Advisory Services did one better, putting together an awesome day of visits to a variety of very interesting sites. Since my whole purpose in coming was to take care of McHenry while Christine conferences, he went along for the ride.

The day started with a trip to the Bonnet Carre' spillway, which allows ACOE managers to divert some section of the flooding Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, thereby protecting down-river communities, particularily New Orleans. The river is currently flooding, and the spillway was in full use, running a few days ago at 316,000 cfs, about 20% of the flow of the river. The diversion will likely last for months, and when the spillway is finally closed back down after the water recedes it will be full of deposited river sedime

After a lunch of seafood Gumbo and crawfish pistolettes we headed to the next stop, another ACOE project, a shockingly ambitious 1 billion dollar surge barrier designed to be closed down during hurricanes, preventing surge from forcing its way up the Mississipi River Gulf Outlet
and inundating New Orleans and other communities on the river.

From there we headed to the Lower 9th Ward to look at what is still a devastated landscape, with swaths of lots stripped bare. Of interest, the shotgun houses that used to populate these neighborhoods are now replaced in areas with small, clearly innovative houses designed as part of the Make It Right program. Its an interesting juxtaposition - houses as modern and interesting as any in the country next door to ruined empty lots and still-damaged houses marked with the distinctive crosses that responders used in the immediate aftermath of Katrina.