Sediment carried by the Mighty Mississippi River was the lifeblood that created coastal Louisiana. For some 7000 years, seasonal floods deposited that sediment along the Gulf Coast and created what we know as the Great American Delta. In an ongoing process of sediment deposition, accretion and subsidence, the landscape of coastal Louisiana took shape. The Great Flood of 1927, however, turned the tide for coastal Louisiana. Following this crushing natural disaster, man sought to seize control of the Mississippi River and its vast watershed, a watershed encompassing thirty-one states and two Canadian provinces. Dams, levees and flood control structures were built to prevent flooding upriver, but in the process, these structures served to set in motion the sediment starvation of the delta.
In addition, man also began a process of carving up the Louisiana wetlands in ceaseless exploration of the vast oil and natural gas resources needed to fuel the nation. More than 10,000 miles of canals began to crisscross the marsh in order to deliver those fuels, but in addition delivered saltwater from the Gulf, impediments to the flow of freshwater, and erosion.
Since the 1930s, some 1900 square miles of our Great American Delta has been lost to the sea. What took nature 7000 years to build, man has nearly destroyed in less than one hundred. Let’s work together to turn the tide again and create a healthy, sustainable Gulf Coast for all Americans.