Louisianans have sought to tame the Mississippi River for decades. Now they may set it free.

Published: Sep. 26, 2022

By: Oscar Tickle

Don Beshel on the balcony of his marina near Point á la Hache, as a shrimp boat leaves one morning in April 2022. Beshel’s Marina is near Mardi Gras Pass, a breach in the Mississippi River levee that occurred naturally in 2011. (Credit: Oscar Tickle/LSU Manship School News Service)

POINT À LA HACHE – Don Beshel walks out of his office and looks out on his marina. Where once were dozens of boats now sit only a few. The levee has more boats washed up from flooding than line his docks.

The air here used to have salty undertones. Now fresh water from the Mississippi River has mixed with salty water from the Gulf. The air is now stale – along with Beshel’s business.

He blames a breach in the levee downriver back in 2011. Before the breach, oysters and saltwater fish like mullet thrived around his marina. Now the water brims with different kinds of fish. The old marsh is gone, replaced by a nearly unrecognizable landscape lined with rows of black-willow trees. Boats cannot find their way out of the marsh due to silt dumped by fresh water from the breach.

Beshel’s world is changing around him. For the people upriver in the Barataria region of the river delta, things are about to change, too, as scientists and others implement a plan to restore something of the untamed river of the past – and blunt coastal erosion often blamed for increasing the impact of hurricane storm surges on New Orleans and other cities.

Read more at Louisiana Illuminator

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