A recent headline on Yahoo! News decried the loss of soils in the recently flooded states to the north of us. This is particularly significant to us on the southern end of the Mississippi River.
A lot of people have said that we could solve Louisiana's coastal erosion problem by just letting nature do the work for us. We need "The river wild" they say.
But here's a part of the story nobody likes to talk about: sediment load.
That is, how much mud does the muddy Mississippi River contain?
The answer: Not nearly as much as she used to.
Going back as far as 1935 and the birth of the Soil Conservation Service, government at all levels has teamed with private citizens to halt the flow of topsoil washing into the nations' rivers. In recent years EPA has been tightening what is called Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations--standards that seek to keep turbidity down.
These and a hundred other well-meaning and beneficial initiatives mean that water flowing past New Orleans today contains just a fraction of mud one would have found in that same water even just a few decades ago.
And what that means is if historically the river was able to build a few hundred square miles of marsh per century, it would take centuries longer to do the same job today.
Would it help to let the river run wild? Yes, but don't count on any help from our neighbors north of the 30th parallel. They need that mud just as much as we do.