Environmental Defense Fund Celebrates a $2.9 Billion Initiative to Reconnect the Mississippi River to Louisiana's Barataria Basin

August 10, 2023
Jenny Tolep, 248-410-2666, jtolep@edf.org

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – August 10, 2023 – It is a historic moment in Louisiana as state officials take a big step forward in advancing the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, soon to become one of the largest individual ecosystem restoration projects in the world. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), alongside partners and supporters, celebrate the start of this long-awaited $2.9 billion initiative to reconnect the Mississippi River to the Barataria Basin, thus transforming 21 square miles of dying wetlands into a lush and thriving ecosystem. 

Breaking ground today, engineers will utilize natural processes to reintroduce the river’s freshwater, sediment and nutrients to the delta in order to build and sustain land, as well as preserve critical coastal habitat. This engineering feat is the first of its kind and is projected to deliver 275 million tons of sediment and 75,000 cubic feet per second of water, roughly the horizontal equivalent of water passing through Niagara Falls on an average day.  

The project is also backed by more than 50 years of research and scientific modeling, highlighting the importance of reestablishing the river’s natural sediment distribution and delta building processes. As a result, the region will start to reverse the environmental mistreatment and restore a vital ecosystem that has suffered from devastating land loss, erosion, historic oil spills and storm damage.   

“By implementing a large-scale project that works with nature, we anticipate long-lasting benefits to ecosystems, wildlife and communities of Louisiana and across the nation,” says Dr. Natalie Snider, associate vice president for EDF’s Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds program. “Healthy wetlands not only provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including many federally endangered or threatened species, but they are also essential in driving multi-billion-dollar economies, preserving the region’s cultural heritages and building storm resilience in the wake of worsening climate impacts.” 

"EDF is proud to be part of this extraordinary effort to revitalize the Mississippi River Delta,” says Fred Krupp, president at EDF. “As we combat rising sea levels, increasing storm risks and other climate impacts, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will be essential in building resilient communities and protecting important ecosystems across Louisiana to the benefit of all of us." 

Since the 1970s, EDF has worked alongside a range of groups and individuals like Jim Tripp, EDF’s retired general counsel, to advocate for solutions that leverage the Mississippi River’s sediment to rebuild Louisiana’s degrading wetlands. After years of collaborating with the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition and sitting on panels that explore Louisiana’s restoration plans, Tripp is finally able to witness the beginning of the construction of this transformative restoration project.  

“Mid-Barataria is the first major man-made diversion that is designed to reintroduce the river’s sediment, in a controlled manner, to a critical basin of the Mississippi River Delta,” says Tripp. “Once operational, it will serve as a model for what Louisiana and the nation must do to resurrect its great delta as we move towards a responsible integrated river management system.” 

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One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund