Airboats are an awesome way to travel through Louisiana’s wetlands! That’s how CC and I got to see one of the first structures built to help refresh some of Louisiana’s vanishing marsh. Biologist John Troutman drove us carefully through delicate flotant marshlands below New Orleans as he explained the need for more freshwater in this area.
I know that you students do many projects in school. CC and I observed a huge project assigned by our federal and state government to bring more fresh water to our damaged wetlands. The Davis Pond freshwater diversion project was interesting to learn about. Chuck Villarrubi, Tom Bernard and Jon Barmore of Louisiana Department of Natural Recourses were also along to help us learn about this venture that has taken many years and many millions of dollars to complete!
The Mississippi River is the major source of freshwater and sediment to southern Louisiana. Since the mighty river was levied many changes have occurred that have hurt our wetlands. One huge problem is Saltwater Intrusion. Salt water is creeping up because there is less freshwater to dilute it! The marsh needs freshwater to keep it diverse so scientist, biologist, and engineers figured out a way to move large amounts of fresh water into an area that really needed it.
By cutting a hole in the levee of the Mississippi River near the town of Boutte, Louisiana they release freshwater into Davis Pond. Davis Pond is not a little old pond; it is a 9,300-acre wetland! This beautiful marshy habitat is full of flotant marsh teeming with wetland wildlife such as ducks, eagles and many species of wading birds! The freshwater from the river that enters this pond exits out of 4 openings and flows into 770,000 acres of the Barataria Terrebonne estuary! It was evident that one opening to release the freshwater of the river should positively affect a really large area of marsh. Another such project called Caernarvon freshwater diversion was opened in 1991 to freshen the wetlands east of the Mississippi River.
After a morning in the airboat, we were taken to the control structure of the Davis Pond diversion canal. When the huge floodgates are completely opened they can release 10,650 cubic feet per second of Mississippi River water into this vast area of marsh. This environmental engineering project is a big concrete structure that has four tunnels that travel under the levee, a road, and a railroad track before emptying into a large canal that carries the water to Davis Pond. This is a lot of water! The water released can create a wild water ride that an experienced kayaker or surfer would adore!
The project guides that spent a day teaching CC and I about the Davis Pond freshwater diversion area are still experimenting and learning how to manage this manmade wonder. They check the water levels and salt content of the area frequently. What a huge job! Grown-ups have important projects to do in their jobs. This freshwater diversion project is very important to our state and our nation because without our wetlands many things we all take for granted would not exist as they do today. Many areas of marshland are gone forever. I was happy to see action being taken in this area. We all make mistakes, but surely any steps we take to help our marsh habitats are better than no action at all! Keep up the good work in school so that in the future you could be the scientist or biologist figuring out ways to restore our beautiful wetlands of south Louisiana!