Water Management

More than anything else, the future of the Atchafalaya Basin will be determined by the way we manage water and its sediments. Nothing is more personal to Dean, your Basinkeeper, than this. The Atchafalaya Basin, with its cypress-tupelo swamps, is truly one of the wonders of America, contains some of the most productive wetlands in the world, and is the last great habitat of its kind in North America. Millions of migratory birds depend on these wetlands for their survival. Many people believe that siltation is a natural process and that it would happen any way. They believe that change is okay. However, in the case of the Atchafalaya Basin's swamps, that line of thinking leads to the loss of the most productive wetlands in North America. First of all, most of the Atchafalaya Basin's swamps are extremely old. Cypress trees over a thousand years old are living in areas where the water levels are the maximum depth that would have allowed them to become established when they were saplings-proof that there have been few changes in sediment accretion in those areas. In natural systems some swamps may change into bottomland hardwood forests while new swamps are created elsewhere, but with human intervention this is no longer the case. The system is no longer natural. The Atchafalaya Basin is silting in at an alarming rate because of human activities. Poor farming practices all over the nation have increased the sediment load into the Mississippi River. The Corps' manipulation in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Basin are unnatural; diverting 60% of the Mississippi's sediment load into the Atchafalaya Basin is not part of the natural process, nor is the dredging of thousands of miles of canals throughout the Atchafalaya Basin and the building of a levee system that cut the surface of the Basin to less than half of what it once was. We no longer have other habitat like the swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin; this fact demands that we stop the trend of siltation in the Basin. Furthermore, the western hemisphere cannot afford to lose these swamps (to be replaced by acres of bottomland hardwood forests) because they are the last sizeable habitat critical to the survival of many bird species.

Although research is desirable and will always be needed, in this case, we require no further research to begin taking immediate action against siltation. The Corps' policy of diverting 60% of the Mississippi River sediments into the Atchafalaya Basin must stop, and the Simmesport structure must be managed in a way that will improve water quality and increase the productivity of the Atchafalaya Basin's wetlands.

Water quality projects should stop in all management units until a sediment-trap system is developed and a long-term management plan is developed and financed, including monitoring and long-term management of the sediment traps. The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper will develop a sediment management plan for the entire Basin and will work to obtain the grass roots support to implement it. At the same time, we will try to prevent the future misspending of funds on projects in the Basin that will reduce public access or benefit industry to the detriment of the swamp.

All of our water management work will be entered into our GIS system that will be accessible through our website, including sedimentation of bayous and lakes throughout the Basin.

Atchafalaya Basinkeeper
P.O. Box 410
Plaquemine, LA 70765 basinkeeper@gmail.com
cell: 225-685-9439
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