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Calming waves at sunset in the Biloxi Back Bay
Secretary of State Michael Watson writes that he will remain actively involved in the proposed Mississippi River Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion to ensure a positive outcome for our Mississippi Gulf Coast. Photo by Amanda Phillips / courtesy Mississippi Department of Marine Resources

We Can’t Ignore Mississippi River Sediment Diversions On The Gulf Coast 

As the only statewide elected official from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I have been actively involved in monitoring the potential impacts of the proposed Mississippi River Sediment Diversion projects in Louisiana’s coastal master plan. I am thankful the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the University of Southern Mississippi teamed up on the recent Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion Assessment. 

My stance has not changed. If the diversions, particularly MBrSD, are bad for the Mississippi Sound (a body of water that extends from Lake Borgne, La., to Mobile Bay, Ala., spanning the entire Gulf Coast of the state of Mississippi), then I will fight their advancement to ensure the impacts are mitigated and make sure Mississippi has a seat at the table throughout the process.

The first page of the Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion (MBrSD) Assessment – Final Report
The University of Southern Mississippi developed an assessment of potential environmental impacts to Mississippi jurisdictional waters and resources from the Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion. Click on the image to read the full assessment.

The recent assessment shows that the operation of the MBrSD would adversely affect the Mississippi Sound under at least one, if not all, of the three scenarios tested. What this report proves is that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers should include impacts to the Mississippi Sound in their MBrSD Environmental Impact Statement, and Mississippi stakeholders should be actively involved in determining what operational regimes of the MBrSD could be harmful to Mississippi Sound. 

It further proves we should be actively involved in ongoing monitoring of the ecosystem at large when, or if, the MBrSD becomes operational.

Unprecedented Flooding 

The Mississippi Gulf Coast ecosystem has suffered greatly over the past decade due to unprecedented flooding resulting in 237 days of Bonnet Carre Spillway openings over the last 12 years. We are grateful to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, which recently ruled that the effects of Bonnet Carre Spillway on the Mississippi Sound were overlooked in the Environmental Impact Statement, and those effects are now being reconsidered. This ruling coupled with the recent USM study fortifies the stance that the Mississippi Sound should be included in the EIS for the MBrSD.

To avoid adverse effects to the Mississippi Sound, the MDMR/USM assessment recommends Louisiana “exercise caution if a full opening of the MBrSD is being considered during high river discharge, especially during BCS openings.” It further recommends we “conduct short-term near real-time forecast modeling, currently in development, to assess risks based on relevant weather and riverine conditions as the timing and flow level of a freshwater diversion are key factors that affect impacts on Mississippi jurisdictional waters.”

First cover of Changes in hydrology and suspended-sediment transport in the Mississippi River Basin over the past century
Widespread changes in hydrology across the Mississippi River Basin have occurred over the last century, resulting in important changes in the delivery of water and sediment to the Lower Mississippi River. This is due to a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors. Click on the image to download and read the full report. Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The study also points out that more research could be beneficial in determining the impacts of the MBrSD under other operational parameters and Mississippi River hydrology conditions (the study of the movement, distribution and management of water). Since the study was commissioned, the maximum design flow of the MBrSD has been lowered from the 75,000 cubic feet per second used in the study, and we must remember that Mississippi River hydrology is a living, breathing unpredictable force.

Because of the delicate balance existing in our shared ecosystem with our neighbor, we can’t ignore the existential land-loss problem Louisiana is facing in the Mid-Breton Sound and Biloxi Marsh. As healthy marshlands continue to disappear across what is left of the crow-foot Delta, we must determine what the long-term impacts to the Mississippi Sound will be when they are gone. 

While we have evidence of the negative impacts MBrSD could have on the Mississippi Sound under the studied operational parameters, a course of no action on Louisiana’s part could also have disastrous effects on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

My mode of operation has always been to build and maintain relationships that enable difficult conversations like the ones that lie ahead related to the health of our precious natural resources. I stand committed to this course of action until it proves ineffective. I will continue to monitor and facilitate interaction with all stakeholders to ensure Mississippi gets and maintains a seat at the table, ensuring a positive outcome for our Mississippi Gulf Coast.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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