Monday, June 28, 2010

Open the levees and let the Mississippi go....

An interesting post from Water Wired: 

Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of the excellent chronicle of Hurricane Katrina, The Great Deluge,  wrote an Op-Ed for the Financial Times last week (you may need to complete a free registration to read it) titled, To Save the Gulf, Free the Mississippi.

Brinkley wants BP to deposit $20B in an escrow account, along with an additional $8B letter of credit. Besides paying claims, this fund would also finance a scheme to remove oil from Louisiana's wetlands. He advocates literally opening the floodgates and allowing the Mississippi River to flush the wetlands of oil.
Here are the relevant paragraphs:
MS RiverBut BP’s escrow billions should not go merely to paying lost wage claims to the charter boat operators, fisherman, motel owners, and seaside restaurateurs whose livelihoods have suffered. The money will also be needed for the US Army Corps of Engineers to open up the floodgates at the mouth of the Mississippi River and flush the Louisiana wetlands with new sediment-rich waters. Nothing is more toxic to wetlands than oil. The BP spill is not a Hurricane Katrina, in which 1,836 people died. Nor is it on the scale of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which claimed 2,995 lives. But it is the worst environmental disaster in US history. It requires Mr Obama to take one major action: start the decade-long process of saving America’s wetlands
Back in 1932 the Army Corps mistakenly raised the Mississippi River levies and built concrete jetties for flood control. The net effect of these engineering boondoggles – built ostensibly to improve navigation and reduce the need for dredging – has been to destroy Louisiana’s incredible wetlands; already a landmass the size of Delaware has disappeared. The Corps flood control programme has deprived the wetlands of their annual replenishing sediment. Instead, hundreds of tonnes of sediment a year drift far out over the outer continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico for naught. Now, as the oil pours in, the wetlands have no natural means of replenishment. They are becoming a toxic dump.
Interesting idea. I'd like to see it vetted by someone qualified to assess its efficacy and speculate upon its unintended consequences.
Thanks to Steven Solomon for sending this my way. He mentioned that Brinkley told him that he had contacted the Department of the Interior about his idea and that they are considering it.
"And the river she rises
Just like she used to do.
She's so full of surprises
She reminds me of you."
Heart of the Night by Poco (written by Paul Cotton)

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