To restore the Mississippi River Delta, scientists and engineers must design and support effective means of deltaic land-building. The Mississippi has not been connected with its delta for generations, and so key questions of physical processes, biology and scale must be addressed with solutions that:
- Are sustainable in the face of continued subsidence, rising sea levels and more intense or frequent storms
- Incorporate answers to multiple environmental and socioeconomic problems
- Are readily seen as realistic and subject to implementation through creative public/private partnerships
Success depends on a strategy that points the way towards system-level restoration projects and leads by example through a high standard of scientific and engineering excellence in the planning, construction and operation of large-scale restoration projects. Without this focus, smaller-scale, less controversial projects will prevail. These projects may provide some benefits but are not enough to address the core dynamic of widespread deltaic collapse.
Activities scientists use to pursue large-scale restoration include:
- Using applied science and demonstration (example) projects to answer questions that pose barriers to restoration at different scales
- Maximizing success of restoration projects through partnerships with the state of Louisiana and industry groups on technical work
- Applying technical capacity to identify and lead applied science projects
- Fostering collaboration between scientists to provide high-credibility engagement on restoration projects and proposals
- Participating in key stakeholder forums
The Mississippi River Delta Science and Engineering Special Team is one such group of scientists, convened to get the science of river diversions and other restoration projects right and to create a new understanding of how a self-sustaining Mississippi River Delta is possible for the environment and communities.