Amid debate, nature takes a crack at rebuilding La. marsh
A small breach on the marsh-covered east bank of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans is giving rise to calls to let the river run wild. The debate centers on a 77-foot-wide channel the river carved through a levee road in the unused Bohemia spillway in Plaquemines Parish, about 45 miles south of New Orleans. The breach is outside levees that protect thinly populated communities on the sliver of delta that extends south to form Louisiana's boot. Scientists with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a New Orleans-based environmental group, say the new channel formed in February, during Mardi Gras season, and have thus dubbed it "Mardi Gras Pass." The scientists are urging that the breach be allowed to remain, saying restorative, land-building silt is pouring into marshes. "We believe it is a river itself, a branch of the river," says John Lopez, the foundation's executive director. On June 29 environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and Tulane University, petitioned the Army Corps of Engineers to stop an oil company from repairing the elevated road in the Bohemia Spillway that was washed out by the breach. In January the corps gave Houston-based Eland/Sundown Energy permission to rebuild the road, which leads to a facility in the spillway. The company did not return telephone calls seeking comment. "A road repair would now be in effect a damming of a river," Lopez says. The Associated Press has the full story on possible future outcomes for Mardi Gras Pass here.
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