WRKF

Coastal Desk

Southeast Louisiana is sinking under the waves faster than any coastal landscape in the world. With so much at stake for Louisiana and the nation, WWNO has made coastal news a priority.

Since mid-2014 our Coastal Desk reporting team has been producing frequent news reports and in-depth features covering coastal erosion and restoration; hurricane protection; offshore energy and other coastal businesses; wildlife and fisheries impacts; and coastal communities and culture.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

Residents and a pair of environmental activist groups are suing St. James Parish over an alleged secret meeting that plaintiffs claim violated Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

Wanhua Chemical US Operation, LLC has proposed construction of a polyurethane facility on a 250 acre tract of land in Convent, Louisiana. On May 20th, 2019, the St. James Planning Commission voted 5-3 to approve the company’s industrial land use application for the site.

Louisiana’s coast is a unique mix of cultures. For hundreds of years Europeans, Africans and Native Americans have lived off the land and water. But that land is disappearing, battered by storms and rising seas, and people are migrating north.

Now, the state is trying to preserve some local traditions before they disappear.

The Water Institute is a Baton Rouge-based research institution that works with the state and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on issues like land loss and river diversions. One of its former scientists is now under investigation by the FBI.

The Times Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate broke the story. WWNO’s Tegan Wendland talked with reporters Della Hasselle and Bryn Stole about the implications for coastal research.

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.

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