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Study: Sediment Diversions Could Inject Billions Into Local Economy

The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is one of the diverison projects the state has planned for Plaquemines Parish. If built, the project would divert part of the Mississippi River's sediment-laden waters into coastal wetlands to rebuild land.

The state’s proposed sediment diversions could inject billions of dollars into the regional economy, according to a new studysponsored by an environmental group.

If built, the sediment diversions would funnel sediment-laden Mississippi River water into coastal wetlands to rebuild land. Both are currently in the design phase and have not yet received the necessary permits to start construction.

Among the findings in the report -- the diversions will create about 400 jobs, per year, in Plaquemines Parish during the seven years both projects are under construction. It also found that the state will bring in more than $50 million in taxes over that same timespan. 

“These are, I think everybody will agree, certainly non-trivial numbers,” said economist Loren Scott, whose firm Loren C. Scott & Associates, Inc. performed the study.

Credit Loren C. Scott & Associates, Inc.
Economist Dr. Loren Scott, who authored the report, compared the construction of the expensive sediment diversion projects to dropping a rock in a pond. “And when it hits that pond, it’s going to create what I think of as positive ripples throughout the economy,” he said.

Scott, who is also Professor Emeritus of Economics at LSU, compared the effects of building the expensive restoration projects to dropping a rock in a pond.

“And when it hits that pond, it’s going to create what I think of as positive ripples throughout the economy," says Scott.

The study was paid for by the Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit that supports diversions.

The release of the report comes as opposition to diversions seems to be spreading. Officials Hancock County, Mississippi recently passed a resolutionopposing Louisiana’s planned sediment diversions, viewing them as an unwanted source of river water.

Historic flooding on the Mississippi River twice necessitated the use of the Bonnet Carre Spillway to manage the river’s flow this year. The extended influx of fresh water into an estuarine ecosystem devastated commercial fisheries like oysters and shrimp this year. Many in the commercial fishing industry have long spoken out against diversions, and viewed this year’s flooding as a preview of the possible damage their water could bring.

Officials with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) maintain that it’s unfair to compare the flow or operation of the planned sediment diversions to historic flooding on the Mississippi River, and they take environmental concerns seriously.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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