Levees, oil wells biggest causes of Barataria Basin land loss: study

Levees, oil wells biggest causes of Barataria Basin land loss: study
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This map shows the location of more than 25,600 individual wells, dots, and the 125 well fields where they are located, circles, in the Barataria Basin. The lines indicate the distance between fields. Locations from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. (Nature Sustainability) 

Edmonds said additional research is needed to better understand the relative roles of both surface disturbance by canals and the effects of oil and gas wells. But he said it is clear the present land loss rate is significantly less than at the height of oil and gas production in the basin, and is likely to continue to be lower. 

“If our model is correct, and resource extraction really caused this fast period of land loss, now that resource extraction has declined significantly, the rate of land loss into the future may be much less than it has historically been,” Edmonds said.

Torbjörn Törnqvist, a Tulane University geology professor and expert in deep subsidence, said the new study does a good job of addressing the role of oil and gas in land loss in the basin, but he also has questions about the role of canals.

“My take would be that wave erosion is the elephant in the room, more than the spoil banks,” Törnqvist said before referencing the now-closed Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel. “Just think about how much widening has happened along MRGO after it was first dug.”

The study pointed out that its findings may also apply to the Terrebonne Basin, which lies between the east side of the Atchafalaya Basin floodway and the west bank of Bayou Lafourche. Combined, the two basins represent 50% of land loss in the Mississippi delta. 

The study also delved into the question of whether there is sufficient sediment remaining in the lower river to rebuild much of the coast. The construction of dozens of dams within the river basin north of Louisiana, combined with modern farming practices, has dramatically reduced the amount of sediment available since 1890.

However, the study found the river still carries enough sediment to build land quickly enough to offset present rates of sea level rise, if it can be moved into the basin.

That disputes 2009 findings by LSU geologists Michael Blum and Harry Roberts that warned that Louisiana’s coastline would lose more than 4,000 square miles of coastline by 2100 because the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers carry only half the sediment they did a century ago. Blum is now at Tulane University.


About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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