Atchafalaya: River Control

Atchafalaya: River Control

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     The Atchafalaya is the most original basins because it has a growing system with very stable wetlands. It is also the biggest river swamp in North America but has lost about 3,760 acres between 1932 and 1990. The loss of the wetlands is primarily due to erosion, human activities, and natural conversion. Many human activities, such as oil and gas pipelines, have interrupted the movement of flow and sediment within the wetlands that it is another factor in the loss of acres for the Atchafalaya. But there is not a total loss in this, the Atchafalaya have also positive outlooks on things. The basin consists of more fish compared to any other natural water system in North America. Let alone the production and distribution of three types of crawfish found in Atchafalaya. The crawfish is the main moneymaker for New Orleans fish markets. But the crawfish may only resemble 10-20% of what is caught. Most of it results in bycatch, organisms caught in the shrimp nets that are discarded, and the Atchafalaya is seen some times as a floating graveyard of different expired species.
     Unfortunately, natural delta growth has been hampered by dredging activities along the main navigation channel. Dredge materials have been placed along side the channel, there by choking off the natural supply of fresh water and sediment to the marsh. TO solve this problem Atchafalaya sediment projects were designed to restore fresh water and sediment delivery processes to the Atchafalaya delta. Within 20 years, this is expected to create an additional 3,000 acres of wetland habitat.
     Out of the 50,000 acres of Atchafalaya, three fourths of it is privately owned. The only way this is determined is if the land accretes from the shore of a lake or a bayou, it is the property of an owner. But if the land accretes as an island, the state owns it; making it an imbalance between government and private landowners. Most landowners are not looking at Atchafalaya as a historical landmark, but for what is worth under the water’s surface as money value. These wetlands support a 1 billion dollar annual fishery industry, therefore making these wetlands a positive outlook on the employment opportunities for the Louisiana people. Many fishermen make a living off of the marine species inhabiting the Atchafalaya. But the employment for this occupation is decreasing because of the land loss. Making it difficult for fishermen to understand what is government owned and what is privately owned.

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Even though the land is getting smaller, the river still flows passed Louisiana land into the Gulf of Mexico.
     Atchafalaya gives away many nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico for an abundant amount of phytoplankton, that doesn’t mean it is a positive outlook. Incoming nutrients stimulate growth of phytoplankton at the surface. This provides food for unicellular animals. Planktonic remains and fecal matter from these organisms fall to the ocean floor, where they are eaten by bacteria, which consume excessive amounts of oxygen, creating eutrophic conditions. The water appears normal on the surface but the bottom is covered with dead and distressed animals. These conditions cause food chain alterations, loss of biodiversity, and high aquatic animal deaths.
     The loss of Louisiana’s coastal marshes is a national crisis. The communal attempt to control the Mississippi river started the damage; the insatiable appetite for oil and gas has made it worse. If the Louisiana wetlands disappear, the effect will be felt far beyond New Orleans. The wealth of this finds its way to the farthest corners of America.

References

Anderson, D.M. (1989). Toxic Algal Blooms and Red Tides: A Global Perspective. In Tomotoshi Okaichi et al (Ed.). Red Tides: Biology, Environmental Science, and Toxicology. (pp. 11-16) New York: Elsevier.

McPhee, J. “Atchafalaya”. The Control of Nature. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Shimizu, Y. Toxicology and Pharmacology: an Overview.” In Tomotoshi Okaichi et al (Ed.). Red Tides: Biology, Environmental Science, and Toxicology. (pp. 17-21) New York: Elsevier.

Turner, E. and Rabalais, N. (1991). Changes in Mississippi River Water Quality this Century. Bioscience, 41, 140-147.
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