Authors Richard F. Keim and William J. Blanford state that historical hydrological management of the Mississippi River and its delta is partially responsible for the increased vulnerability of coastal infrastructure and culture, and effectiveness of levees can be improved by combining wetland restoration and flood-protection efforts synergistically into a single effort. Hence, construction of a "category 5" levee, which is proposed by some, is not a substitute for wetland protection.
"The health and susceptibility of any levee system will be matched by the health of the natural systems and care and attentiveness to which we pay to both," state Keim and Blanford. "Incorporating natural systems as integral to a functional levee system will allow humans to continue to live in precarious coastal communities."
Keim and Blanford hope that engineering solutions can be found to preserve and enhance natural processes to sustain wetlands, with levees used only to protect concentrated, high-value infrastructure. "To maintain the integrity of those wetlands, with all of their ecological, economic and cultural importance, will require active hydrological management," add Keim and Blanford. "Including ecosystem restoration in flood control planning is necessary."
Findings from the research behind this article are being used directly by state and federal regulatory groups to guide the development of strategies for management and restoration of Louisiana's wetlands, which compose over 40% of the nation's wetlands. The authors are also beginning research to understand the spatial extent of wetland conditions by mapping ecological and hydrologic conditions from satellite data, a tool in strong demand from regulatory and planning groups.
This guest editorial is published in Ground Water, a publication of the National Ground Water Association. Media who would like to receive a PDF of this paper should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard F. Keim is an Assistant Professor at the School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana State University and LSU Agricultural Center. William J. Blanford is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Louisiana State University. Professor Keim can be reached for questions and interviews at email@example.com and Professor Blanford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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