Understanding the overall demands on the river is critical to the master plan because the river must also serve other important needs. Navigation, for example, is important not only to the economy of New Orleans but to 31 other states, and cities and industries along its course also depend on the river for fresh water.
The idea of a “budget” that includes all draws on the river is only now beginning to be studied but is expected to be a major factor in the operation of the master plan, said Garret Graves, head of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Price said the delta-management part of the hydrodynamics study will focus on the impact of restoration projects on adjoining basins.
“The hydro study determines what resources are available for restoration; the delta-management study will take that information, and they will determine the quantity and quality of sustainable wetlands that can be built with large-scale diversions,” Price said. “We will also be evaluating how large-scale diversions” — those passing more than 50,000 cubic feet per second of river water through the levee opening — “will impact habitat shifts, marsh integrity, flooding, fisheries and other resources in the basins.”
Many of those issues have been hotly debated by commercial fishermen who face displacement if an influx of fresh water moves their catch to water that’s more salty.
The delta-management side of the study has yet to start, however. The U.S. Army Corps’ New Orleans office awaits approval of its funding share because the project time frame of five years is longer than new corps’ guidelines that require studies to be completed within three years.
Price said she expects the waiver to be granted from corps headquarters by the end of the month.
“We feel we still have time to get this part done in three and a half years,” she said.
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