Volume 7 - January 5, 2004

The Davis Pond Project

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!

Naughty Nutria!

Can you name a critter that has large orange teeth, a naked tail, and brown fur and is a good swimmer? You guessed it, a nutria, Myocaster coypus. We see these rodents everywhere and it is my weakness to swim after them.  This furry creature was brought to Louisiana from South America in the 1930’s as a potential animal to farm for furs. 


But they escaped and multiplied.  As their population grew some people thought they would help eradicate another non-native species, the water hyacinth, but instead they ate too much of the good marsh plants and have out competed the muskrat, a native fur bearer.  Being bigger and faster breeders, they have taken much of the muskrat’s food and shelter.  Nutria can live wherever there is water in Louisiana but are heavily populated in south Louisiana swamps and marshes where they do much damage.


Nutria have voracious appetites and they eat night and day.  They create erosion by eating out whole area of marsh. They also burrow into the levees damaging them.  Nutria have large litters of cute babies.  A female can raise 20 young a year.  So you can see how they can overpopulate the marsh.


Besides being a fun animal for me to chase, they are sometimes caught for fur or nutritious meat. Alligators just love them for dinner.


Nutria damage and over population in Louisiana’s wetlands is a big problem.  Louisiana has a nutria control program which pays trappers $4 per tail brought in.  If I could only trap a few I could afford to buy some doggy treats!  Arf!

- Freshwater is essential to keep marsh areas diverse.
- Saltwater Intrusion is a major problem to the wetlands of South Louisiana.
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1. Go outside with your teacher for ten minutes. For the first five minutes have the students write down five things that they see that they like and five things they dislike in their immediate environment. Spend the next five minutes sharing responses. Return to your classroom and write a short story about one thing they would like to change in their environment and how they would go about doing it.

Check out this website and the book "OH NO! HANNAH’S SWAMP IS CHANGING" by Marilyn Barrett-O’Leary
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2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit

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