Divert the flood; save the wetlands?

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 5:00pm

Rising river levels have sparked an old debate. Should we control the river’s course, or let nature take over? LSU researchers with the Department of Engineering say we can have it both ways.

At the Vince A. Forte River and Coastal Hydraulics Lab, students study the benefits of building diversion channels along the river. The channels would capture spring flood water, diverting it away from the Mississippi and into the state’s struggling wetlands.

"Can we, at strategic locations reconnect the river to those areas; some of the areas in the coast?” asks Clint Willson, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

It’s an idea they say could protect cities from future floods, save the coastline and money. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spends millions of dollars every year dredging sediment out of the mouth of the Mississippi, so that ships can pass. Dr. Willson says that dredging could be reduced or even eliminated by rerouting the nutrient rich sediment through the diversion channels with the river water.

The state is working on a new contract to build an even bigger river model and study the diversion idea further.

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