IMMS provides expertise on proposed diversion of Mississippi River

Last week director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies Dr. Moby Solangi traveled to Jackson to speak before the state’s ports and marine resources committee about the proposed Mid-Breton Sound diversion on the Mississippi and Louisiana state line and its anticipated impacts on the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem.

When the Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened in 2019 for 123 days it devastated marine life in the Mississippi Sound as well as the tourism industry along the Coast. Dr. Solangi said, “We lost our oysters. We lost our blue crabs, shrimp; a massive mortality with dolphins, a lot of other animals suffered. There was toxic algae that tourism suffered. We had tremendous damage to our marine resources and our economy. It’s estimated about $500 million worth of losses.”

Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing new Mississippi River diversions, including the Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion.

This proposal, however, could present damage to the Coast ecosystem and economy, similar to that incurred by the opening of the spillway. Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser said, “I’m on a mission with the local fishermen and the people that care about the wildlife and our precious turtles and dolphins to stop these diversions and stop the Corps from just opening the Spillway at will without taking some other preventative maintenance to keep from having to open the Spillway.”

Dr. Solangi warns that opening another diversion and mixing mass amounts of fresh water into salt water habitats for even a short time could create damage for years to come. ” It’s no different than having an aquatic hurricane. Like it takes years for hurricanes’ impact on land to recover. Sometimes years and years. It’s the same thing. It has just wiped out the ecosystem.”

Nearly two years after filing their lawsuit, the Mississippi Sound Coalition’s case against the Mississippi River Commission and the corps for violating a fishery conservation and management act, a result of opening the spillway for an extended period of time, is expected to go to trial.

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