• The Mississippi: A Visual Biography by Quinta Scott

    "Great book and great blog - thanks for the first book I have seen that addresses the contemporary river, headwaters to gulf." Dan McGuiness, Audubon, St. Paul, Minnesota

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Mardi Gras Pass: Keep it or Dam It

Mississippi River Ridge at Bohemia

While folks partied in the streets of New Orleans on Fat Tuesday, the Mississippi River gave the State of Louisiana a gift, a freebie. The river broke through the low ridge at Bohemia, south of the end of the Main Line levee, and began pouring sediment into Breton Sound to the east. The river is doing for free what the state would have the Federal Government pay $50 billion over 50 years to rebuild barrier island and to divert the Mississippi to Breton Sound on the east and the Barataria Basin on the west. State engineers already had a plan on the books to create a similar diversion into Breton Sound a mere mile from the Bohemia siphon, where the breach occurred.

Bohemia Siphon along the Mississippi

The site of the breech was the old, inoperable siphon, designed to deliver fresh water from the river to the wetlands in the sound. The siphon opens onto a spillway, created in 1924 as a means of relieving flooding in New Orleans. However, this spillway is 45 miles south of New Orleans. After the Flood of 1927 the Bonne Carre Spillway and the Achafalaya and Morganza Spillways were design to siphon water from a flood Mississippi before it reached New Orleans.

Sites of Bohemia Siphon and the Oil Facility on the End of the Road on the Mississippi Ridge

Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given Houston-based Eland/Sundown Energy permission to seal the crevasse, dam it in order to rebuild the road to their work facility not more than two or three miles down the road, where it ends at a gate to its yard.

Right now the Mississippi is low, very low and the spillway is delivery fresh water and sediment at a much slower rate than the 50,000 cubic feet per second the state-designed spillway would flow. But water and sediment is flowing to Breton Sound. It is a gift from the Flood of 2011. The river will rise again, flood, and spill more water through the breach, enlarging it and sending more water and sediment to the Bohemia Wildlife Management Area and Breton Sound.

Breton Sound at the Bohemia State Wildlife Management Area just off Pointe a la Hache

In 2005 Katrina roared across the Mississippi south of the siphon, and tore north through Breton Sound and Lake Borgne tearing up the wetlands and busting through the levees that protected St. Bernard Parish, trashing the towns there. Then it tore across the wetlands that protects that lovely string of towns on the the State of  Mississippi coast–Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulf Port, and Biloxi–and destroyed them. Had those wetlands in Breton Sound been in tact, Katrina would not have been as devastating. Never mind what happened after it arrived in Lake Pontchartrain, washed into the canals that drain every drop of water that falls on New Orleans, and collapsed the levees that contained them, flooding the city.

  •  (quintascott.wordpress.com)
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7 Responses

  1. Recently, a historic oak was moved in our town. After the completion of the move, I was talking to the owner of the company in charge. He said that something like tree-moving can’t be held to a timetable. After all, he said, “I’m living, you’re living, and that tree is living. You can’t just rip it out of the ground like an inanimate object. It’s got its own rules.”

    I think too many people forget that the Mississippi has its own rules, too. I don’t happen to think you can ascribe volition or intent to it, but there’s no question there are forces at work that can’t be predicted or constrained.

    It’s interesting that the breach took place so close to the location of the planned diversion. It’s probably just me, but it seems foolish to repair and rebuild in order to create a man-made “breach”. I’m glad to know about this – it’s going to be interesting to follow.

    Long may they wrangle! More wrangling = more silt!

  2. […] Mardi Gras Pass: Keep it or Dam It(quintascott.wordpress.com) […]

  3. The Army Corp of Engineers needs to have their heads examined forallowing Sundown Energy from Houston, Texas to touch the very land we are trying to restore and protect. I have lived in Venice, La. since 1962 and have seen the damages that the oil companies did to our wetlands. I thought our leaders were on the right path to restoring our wetlands, that I won’t be around to see come back, with BP and Federal Government money, the taxpayer’s money, only to allow another oil company to come in and do further damage to our wetlands for the purpose of MONEY. It is sad that our State Government officials can’t take a gift from mother nature and thank God, if there is a god, for it. I believe the people of Louisianan should denounce the Army Corp of Engineers, Sundown Energy, and anyone who threatens our only means of protection for our State and our homes!

    • Marc do you realize that Hurricane Isaac, a minimal hurricane sent a storm surge up the Mississippi River to Red River Landing( mile 305 ).
      Yet tide gauges goes at West Bay and SW pass( both at the geographic mouth of the river) recorded minimal surge. The tide gauges at Point a la Hache and Carrolton/New Orleans measured 12.5 ft. the surge entered the Mississippi River at a location near Mardi Gras Pass. If left unchecked MardiGras Pass is expected to grow in width and dept and in the future could be THE CONDUIT for massive surge to enter the Mississippi River and threaten New Orleans.

      • MAN is responsible for the loss of our wetlands in South East
        Louisiana. The building of Levees, and the ten thousand miles of
        Canals dredged for the Oil and Gas Companies have destroyed our Precious Wetlands.. Due to the negligence of MAN, the U. S. Corp of Engineers, the Levee Board, and the opening of the Mr. Go, the lives of over a thousand residents in New Orleans and the Flooding of their city was caused by MAN!
        Today, Without the Protection of our wetlands a Cat 1 hurricane can be
        just as destructive as Cat 3 Hurricane, and we only have ourselves
        to blame for it. But MAN always waits to the last minute to do something about it! Today, they are finally dredging and pumping sand from the Mississippi River to rebuild our Coast on the West side of the River, and British Petroleum is PAYING FOR IT. Is it to late?
        The Mardi Gras Pass is a 150 foot gap caused from the 2011 Mardi
        Gras Flood. I agree with those who see the Mardi Gras Pass as a builder of our wet lands on the East side of the Mississippi River. There
        are those who believe in closing it for the Houston Base Oil Company.
        But you can’t compare a 150 foot gap to the loss of our precious
        wetlands that took Millions of years to build and over 100 years to be
        destroyed by MAN!

      • Read *The Mississippi *. I detailed the whole sad story there.

        Quinta Scott

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