WRKF

Travis Lux

Contributing Reporter

Travis Lux primarily contributes science and health stories to Louisiana's Lab. He studied anthropology and sociology at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and picked up his first microphone at the Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole, MA. In his spare time he loves to cook -- especially soups and casseroles. 

Louisiana’s Department of Health is shutting down several oyster harvesting areas due to low salinity caused by a steady influx of freshwater from the Bonnet Carre Spillway. 

The spillway, which diverts flood water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, has been open for more than 95 days this year. That’s kept a steady stream of fresh water flowing into areas where oysters grow.

The commercial fishing industry on the Gulf Coast has seen two major disasters in the last 15 years: Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Now, some fear we’re on the cusp of a third. The culprit: historic flooding from the Mississippi River.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is predicted to be the second biggest in history, according to a new forecast from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).

The dead zone is mostly caused by agricultural run-off from the Mississippi River; nutrients from fertilizers like nitrogen and phosphorus enter the water, causing algae to bloom once it slows and heats up in the Gulf of Mexico. When the algae decays, it uses up oxygen in the water which can stress and kill some sea creatures. The condition of reduced oxygen is known as hypoxia.

The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to open the Morganza Flood Control Structure on Sunday to relieve flooding on the Mississippi River. For those who live and work downstream of the spillway, that means it’s time to get ready.

For this story, we’re going to take a trip down the floodway, north to south. We’ll start in the town of Morganza, and end up down near the Gulf, talking to people along the way.

Towns along the Upper Mississippi River are dealing with some of the worst flooding they’ve ever seen. Busted levees. Flooded downtowns. What does that mean for us in Louisiana? When should we be concerned, and when should we not be?

The Army Corps of Engineers expects to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway Friday afternoon.

Located upriver from New Orleans, the Bonnet Carre Spillway acts as a release valve for the Mississippi River. When the water reaches a flow of 1.25 million cubic feet per second, the Corps opens the spillway to divert some of that water into Lake Pontchartrain.

From flooding to commerce to recreation -- the Mississippi River poses all kinds of challenges and opportunities for those who live along its banks.

Travis Lux, WWNO Coastal Reporter, and Sara Sneath, environment reporter for Nola.com | The Times-Picayune, spent this past week traveling along the river with a group of journalists from around the country. The trip was made possible by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources. St. Louis, Memphis, Vicksburg -- all the way down to the river’s mouth.

The reporters’ big takeaway? The river impacts a lot of people in a lot of different ways.

During the BP oil spill in 2010, responders used chemical dispersants to break up the oil. Recent studies have questioned both the safety and efficacy of those chemicals. Other studies have suggested that those concerns are overblown.

So which is it? Are dispersants dangerous? Or are they not? And why is it so hard to figure out?

This week on the Coastal News Roundup, environment reporter Tristan Baurick from Nola.com | The Times Picayune, sorts it all out with WWNO’s Travis Lux.

This week on the Coastal News Roundup -- the City of New Orleans joins six other parishes by filing a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry over damage to the coast. Plus -- can levees keep up with subsidence and sea level rise? The Army Corps of Engineers starts a study to find out.

 

This week on the Coastal News Roundup: the hotly contested Bayou Bridge Pipeline is finally complete. Plus, an update on two environmental lawsuits.

WWNO’s Travis Lux got all the details from Sara Sneath, environment reporter for NOLA.com | The Times Picayune.

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