Louisiana Breaks Ground on Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion

The sediment diversion will reconnect the Mississippi River to Louisiana's Barataria Basin estuary (Credit: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority)

Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) broke ground on August 10, 2023 on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project at Mississippi River Mile 60.7 in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Representatives of many state and federal agencies, non-profits, and the surrounding communities attended the kick-off of this important restoration and land-building project.  

As part of the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group, the agencies charged with restoring Louisiana’s natural resources after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, CPRA is leading the construction and eventual operation of the Mid-Barataria sediment diversion.  

When operational, the sediment diversion will reconnect the Mississippi River to Louisiana's Barataria Basin estuary to restore wetlands and contribute to the broader restoration of its ecosystem. Over 50 years, the sediment carried by the project is projected to restore over 13,000 acres of wetland habitat. These restored wetlands will increase protection for nearby communities and infrastructure, reduce impacts from storms, support healthier Gulf fisheries, and benefit many species important to the region’s economy and environment.  

The 2010 oil spill and response activities killed swaths of wetland plants that help stabilize coastal areas. Without this shoreline protection, the existing trend of coastal land loss was accelerated by the spill, especially in the state’s Barataria Basin estuary. The species, fisheries, and communities that rely on estuarine habitats face serious challenges due to the continued loss of wetlands, increasing estuarine salinities, as well as sea level rise and land subsidence.     

Approved for funding in February 2023, five months after the final plan was released, this first-of-its-kind project represents one of the largest and most innovative coastal habitat restoration efforts ever undertaken. The Louisiana Trustees approved the allocation of $2.26 billion from Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement towards the total project cost of $2.92 billion. The project plan and budget include funds for a suite of monitoring, and mitigation measures to offset impacts, to the extent practicable. 

Project Features and Mitigation 

Next steps for the project construction include site preparation activities and the temporary relocation of Highway 23 in the fall of 2023. 

Project features include a controlled gate structure through the river levee, a manmade channel, and an outfall structure in the basin. Construction is anticipated to take approximately five years and is projected to produce an economic impact of nearly $1.5 billion in sales and approximately 12,400 jobs in the region. 

Another major component of the project includes investments in mitigation measures for communities and natural resources, such as fisheries that may be impacted by project operations. Mitigation and stewardship measures were developed through outreach and feedback gathered from residents and stakeholders over the last several years. Elevation surveys of residences and infrastructure in communities south of the project identified for mitigation are already underway.  

To support near-term needs, CPRA already identified avenues and partnerships for $10 million of the mitigation funding for implementation of some fisheries stewardship measures. These measures were prioritized based on the ability to meet current, urgent needs and expand effectiveness with near-term implementation. CPRA and its partners will continue working with the fishing industries and other stakeholders to best implement the stewardship measures outlined in the project’s mitigation plan. This is an ongoing process that will occur throughout construction and continue into the operations period of the project.   

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