Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion To Receive $2.26 Billion In Funding

The pieces are falling into place for construction to begin this year on Louisiana’s massive Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, planned for the west bank of the Mississippi River near the town of Ironton in Plaquemines Parish.

After years of planning by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (LA TIG), the group of agencies responsible for distributing settlement funding tied to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, approved the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Final Restoration Plan in September 2022. Three months later, the New Orleans Engineer District and the Mississippi Valley Engineer Division granted the conditional permit and Section 408 permission to CPRA for the diversion. Barely a week later, CPRA announced an agreement to pay Tallgrass, an energy company, about $36 million to acquire close to 500 acres of land. Tallgrass had planned a crude oil export terminal on the same site CPRA identified for the diversion. Tallgrass canceled plans for its project in 2021.

And now the diversion project has secured a funding source, with LA TIG approving $2.26 billion for the project on February 1.

The structure, to be located at mile 60.7 on the Lower Mississippi River, will funnel up to 75,000 cubic feet per second (cfs.) of the river’s flow through a 2-mile-long canal and into the upper reaches of Barataria Bay. The Barataria region is experiencing some of the most rapid rates of land loss in Louisiana, which, as a state, loses about a football field of land every 100 minutes due to subsidence, erosion and relative sea level rise.

In low-flow conditions, the diversion will siphon about 5,000 cfs. from the river. The structure is expected to discharge about 25,000 cfs. when the river has a flow at Belle Chasse of about 450,000 cfs. That would grow to a maximum of 75,000 cfs. as the river in Belle Chasse approaches 1 million cfs.

CPRA anticipates the diversion will build or sustain up to 13,400 acres—or just under 21 square miles—of wetland by 2070. By that time, CPRA estimates that a mere 80 square miles of wetlands in the Barataria Basin will remain, including the 20 connected with the diversion.

“Today’s decision is the culmination of exemplary collaboration across federal and state agencies to address a complex issue with an impactful solution,” CPRA Chairman Chip Kline said. “Coastal Louisiana is home to natural resources, communities and assets that our country simply cannot afford to lose, and this decision acknowledges its significance on a national scale and from every point of view. With this funding, we are finally equipped to bring the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, a cornerstone project of our Coastal Master Plan, to life and implement a fundamentally new approach to restoration that makes our coastal program stronger and more sustainable than ever before.”

With funding, property and permitting in place, CPRA hopes to begin construction on the project later this year. Construction will take at least five years.

“The decision to fund this project is confirmation from federal and state leaders, as well as subject matter experts across an array of disciplines, that the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is the best way to restore an area that suffered greatly from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and still experiences some of the highest rates of land loss in the world,” CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase said. “Further, it validates what science has pointed us to for decades—harnessing the power of the Mississippi River is the most sustainable way to rebuild our coast.”