A Mini Mississippi River May Help Save Louisiana’s Vanishing Coast

By John Schwartz.

We were standing on the levee of the Mississippi River, about an hour west of Boston.

Of course, the actual Mississippi River is a half-continent away. We were in fact in a vast, warehouse-size laboratory above a scale model of a bend in the river in Louisiana, painstakingly recreated at 1/65th scale, right down to the simulated sand.

The model is one of the most striking parts of an ambitious project to rebuild Louisiana’s vanishing coast, which is rapidly being lost to rising seas and sinking land. Engineers want to be sure their design for a river “diversion” — an enormous mechanism for restoring eroded wetlands — will work.

A diversion is a set of gates in a river levee that can be opened and closed. The escaping river water is supposed to sweep sand, sediment and clay into nearby wetlands being annihilated by climate change and other environmental disasters.

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