Restoring the Mississippi River Delta
A healthy delta protects people, wildlife, and jobs
The Mississippi River Delta is a vital national resource, but it is disappearing at an alarming rate that must be reversed.
Every hour, an area of coastal land the size of a football field vanishes under water. Since the 1930s, almost 1,900 square miles of wetlands – an area almost the size of Delaware – has disappeared from the Louisiana coast. Each day, communities find themselves closer and closer to open water, more vulnerable to hurricanes and sea level rise.
This land loss has been caused by nearly a century of federal policy decisions to channelize and control the Mississippi River for economic development and navigation, while allowing the oil and gas industry to dig canals through the wetlands for thousands of miles of pipelines. These actions cut off the wetlands from the river sediment that built and nourished them for centuries, while changing water flows and bringing in damaging saltwater. Without swift action to reverse this resulting degradation, the Mississippi River Delta will collapse.
The health of the delta is vital to the economic health of the nation. Coastal Louisiana is home to the largest wetlands ecosystem in the United States, major energy, fishing, shipping and tourism industries, and unique people and cultures. All of these precious benefits are at stake if we do not reverse land loss, revitalize the system, and redesign the delta.
EDF has been working in the Mississippi River Delta for more than 35 years, advocating for large-scale restoration projects to restore and revitalize the region. We are working to instill a sense of urgency and a national commitment to a bold restoration plan for the area.
Working as part of a national coalition, our mission is to secure the funding, governance and political momentum necessary to support and maintain a healthy and self-sustaining Mississippi River Delta. We are working with state and federal governments to champion support for large-scale restoration projects and to secure the necessary revenue streams. Our goal is to implement a self-sufficient multi-agency, multi-disciplinary governance structure capable of putting in place a self-sustaining public works program for the delta.
As land along the Louisiana coastline disappears, so does the rich habitat that supports the most valuable fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as vast populations of migratory birds, local communities, and unique cultures. EDF is working with local partners to implement large-scale restoration projects to reintroduce freshwater and sediment, as well as restore natural water flows, to rebuild the Mississippi River Delta.
These projects include:
- Restoration of the wetlands damaged by construction of the now-closed MRGO shipping channel
- Large-scale sediment diversion at Myrtle Grove
- Facilitating natural land-building processes and promoting ecological health in the Atchafalaya River Basin and Wax Lake
- Working with engineers, designers, and scientists to redesign the Lower Mississippi River Delta
Creating economic opportunities
Environment and economics are intricately connected in the Mississippi River Delta, perhaps more so than any other region in the country. The delta is home to critical energy infrastructure, as well as the busiest port in North America by volume. Restoring the delta will not only help protect these critical economic interests, but it will also create new jobs.
Protecting local communities
Restoring a healthy deltaic system (including cypress forest, barrier islands and wetlands) in coastal Louisiana can buffer storms and offset sea level rise. It will protect the local communities, fishing economies, and distinctive cultures that rely on the coast for their livelihood. EDF is leading an initiative to redesign the Lower Mississippi River Delta, bringing international engineers together to think outside the box and sustainably redesign the delta.