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State begins work on 'one of the largest resilience projects in the world' — here's why it matters

"We're excited about what it means for the future of our communities."

"We’re excited about what it means for the future of our communities."

Photo Credit: iStock

A climate resilience project in Louisiana is reconnecting the state's wetlands to the Mississippi River to improve storm protection for local communities and to return the surrounding land to its natural state. 

In August, the Walton Family Foundation helped launch the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, which scientists hope will enable the wetlands to be restored to keep up with rising ocean levels.

According to Fox 8, the 2-mile-long concrete channel will redirect water back to Barataria Bay. It has been in the works for 10 years, and the project is set to cost around $2.9 billion.

"Wetlands function like natural speed bumps," said Moira Mcdonald, environment program director for the Walton Family Foundation. "They help to slow big storms and blunt extreme weather impacts. As long as freshwater and sediment continued flowing from the river, the wetlands kept up their protective work."

Mcdonald described it as "one of the largest resilience projects in the world," and she hopes it will be a guiding light for other similar interventions. 

Changes to the river by humans in order to improve shipping or prevent flooding have isolated the wetlands, and restoration efforts will help to return the soil and sediment that they have been deprived of. 

According to Mcdonald, Louisiana is losing an area of wetland equivalent to a football field every 90 minutes. As Gulf Spill Restoration noted, though, the sediment from the diversion will help to restore 13,000 acres of wetlands in the next 50 years. 

The initiative should also provide a boost for biodiversity, benefiting the animals that call the wetlands home and restoring the area's natural balance. 

The impact of storms on coastal communities is a growing concern, with warmer temperatures exacerbated by pollution leading to more intense rainfall events that put the homes, lives, and livelihoods of residents at risk. 

Meanwhile, rising ocean levels as a result of human-caused global heating are putting coastal places right in the way of potential seawater flooding. 

But the diversion could redirect 75,000 cubic feet of water per second, according to Fox 8, helping to protect these communities. 

"We're excited about what it means for the future of our communities — in Louisiana, up and down the Mississippi, and across the country," Mcdonald said. 

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