When you hear Louisiana’s Simone Maroz gushing over the mighty Neptune, you might think she’s talking about a new band or a Mardi Gras crew. “It’s exploding. I can’t believe it!”
In fact, Simone mentions Neptune Pass. Neptune Pass is part of the Mississippi River, demonstrating the potential of one of the Gulf Coast’s greatest resources: the river itself.
For half a century on the Louisiana coast, a combination of climate change superstorms and human engineering have conspired to swallow up an area of coastal land the size of a football field every 100 minutes. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 2,000 square miles of her land, an area roughly the size of Delaware.
But Neptune Pass shows us the creative power of rivers, she says.
“We’ve been trying to contain the Mississippi River for a long time, and we’ve been feeling the consequences,” said the nonprofit organization, a coalition of nonprofit organizations focused on the environmental and economic impacts of the Mississippi River Delta. said Simone, campaign director for Restoring the Mississippi River Delta. Loss of coastal land in Louisiana.
But after multiple high-water events at Neptune Pass prior to 2019, the river wanted to break out of its constricted main channel. I built a shortcut through a natural opening. New delta silty leaves are starting to emerge from the water.
“Neptune showed us the power of rivers and the sediments they contain,” says Simone.
“Neptune Pass is an example of nature-based solutions in action. If we work with rivers and manage them responsibly, we can make big changes in years, not decades. I understand.”
Simone said natural changes like those occurring at Neptune Pass and record-breaking nature-based projects like the $3 billion Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project are all key to maintaining North America’s deltas over the long term. He says it is a piece of a complex puzzle for restoration. semester. “You can’t just do one thing. We don’t have that luxury. We have to do them all,” she says.
The Walton Family Foundation has long supported nature-based conservation solutions to secure the long-term future of people and communities along the Mississippi River.
Since 2007, a strong coalition of supporters has resulted in a comprehensive coastal master plan for Louisiana that has resulted in the construction of more than 110 miles of barrier islands and levees and 369 miles of levee improvements on nearly 56,000 acres of land. It has been.
These impressive statistics do not include the Central Barataria Sediment Diversion Project, which broke ground last summer after 10 years of negotiations. This is a bold idea born out of necessity and the largest ecosystem restoration project in U.S. history.
The success of these conservation efforts is due in no small part to the work of passionate advocates like Simone. The Louisiana native has been advocating for large-scale restoration projects for over 19 years.
At the beginning of 2023, Simone Louisiana of the Year by Louisiana Life She was honored for her contribution to coastal wetland restoration.
But the work is not done yet. Currently, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has 107 projects in the planning and construction stages. To keep up the pace, the state needs to keep about $1 billion a year in coastal projects.
“The reason we were able to achieve these really big milestones and we were successful is because in Louisiana, protecting our coast is protecting our way of life. No matter what party you belong to, Louisianans “We can see people come together in support of coastal restoration and protection,” Simone said.
“We have accomplished a tremendous amount, but we have not yet taken down the ‘Mission Accomplished’ flag. Whether it’s funding, natural disasters, or our own policies, there is no status quo in Louisiana. We have people like me who grew up here with the same passion. We have a great story to tell about the Gulf Coast and our importance to the nation. And we have science on our side. ”
At Neptune Pass, scientific data played a major role in starting the river’s reconstruction.
“Neptune’s changes were happening so quickly that we needed scientific backing to make sure this wasn’t a fluke,” Simone says.
“In fact, there were people who wanted to close the waterway because the flow from the river that created the new land was affecting navigation. Thanks to science supported by the Walton Family Foundation, we could say, “Wait!” We need to take a closer look at what’s going on. This is good. You can balance both navigation and repair. ”
Beyond coastal protection and ecological benefits, each new project also serves as a driver for the state’s economy.
Mid Barataria alone is expected to support 12,400 jobs and the local spending these workers bring to the community.
“These coastal projects are a big economic driver. People are familiar with product distribution facilities from an economic development standpoint. Well, we’re building the Mississippi River distribution facility,” Simone says. “To make these projects successful, we have built an entire network of coastal career paths. Coastal restoration is always important, so these jobs pay well and can last a lifetime. ”
As efforts to protect Louisiana continue, Simone believes that enduring public-private partnerships at the local, state and federal levels are a blueprint for communities in the upstream region and around the world facing the realities of climate change. I believe it is possible.
“The people we train here in Louisiana and the model we build can work anywhere.”
The Mississippi River has never been and will never be the same. But for Simone and supporters like her, that dynamism is part of what makes it special.
“We have been given this incredible resource. The right thing to do now and for the future is to strengthen areas that are healthy and thriving. Build levees in vulnerable areas and build homes. “We’ll make it higher and reconnect it to the best resource we can, the Mississippi River. But is there a future without action? That’s not something we can think of.”