Friday, November 21, 2008

West Bay Diversion

From a Gambit piece
in the November 18th issue regarding the West Bay Diversion project

The Corps' attempt to dodge financial responsibility for dredging is another example of its egregious indifference toward Louisiana's — and the nation's — environmental plight. Moreover, the Breaux Act was passed to create, protect and restore Louisiana's coastal wetlands — not improve navigation.

Garret Graves, director of the Governor's Office on Coastal Activities and a nonvoting member of the task force, says the state will pay for the dredging in the short term to keep the West Bay project going. He adds that the Corps should revisit the idea of balancing navigation, flood control and coastal restoration. Like Nungesser, Graves is interested in solutions, and the West Bay diversion is part of the solution to coastal wetland loss. Graves reports that the project produces 3.7 million tons of sediment a year — sediment that builds protective wetlands rather than clogs shipping channels, which the Corps otherwise would have to dredge. According to Harrison of the Environmental Defense Fund, when the Corps dredges a navigational channel, 80 percent of the material is either pumped or dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.

The diversion thus saves money, because it uses sediment productively rather than requiring expensive dredging to expel it from shipping channels and dump it into the Outer Continental Shelf. The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 directed the Corps to implement a program for the beneficial use of dredge material and authorized $100 million for the project. Is there anything more beneficial than using sediment to restore wetlands — while saving the federal treasury money on dredging? "If done properly, [diversion projects] benefit navigation and that is the whole point of an integrated coastal program," Graves says.


image from Environmental Health Perspectives website

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