Bird’s Eye View: Flood Flyover Photos

Yesterday, I hopped in a seaplane at Southern Seaplanes in Belle Chase and flew north along the Mississippi River. On board with me on this Josephine Billups (of the band Sassafrass) sponsored flight was Matt Rota, GRN’s Science and Water Policy Director, and Randy Perez, a videographer from New Orleans who has accompanied me on several excursions over the course of the last year to help capture footage for GRN’s ongoing video series, Gulf Tides. Our flight took us to the Bonnet Carre spillway, the Morganza Spillway, the Old River Control Structure, over the Atchafalaya River, and back south along the Morganza floodway. Along the way we flew over various other points of interest and concern, such as a huge fertilizer plant and the Krotz Springs refinery. Our hearts go out to those who are experiencing or will experience the impacts of this historical flood as well as to the animals and birds that are losing their habitat. On yesterday’s flyover, we came across some flooded immovable property such as camps, farmhouses, and businesses, yet, many of the homes and businesses that are in harm’s way have not yet been impacted. Undoubtedly many people are on pins and needles hoping and praying that that doesn’t happen, although in many instances the situation is inevitable.Also inevitable is the massive amount of pollution that will continue to make its way down river toward the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrient pollution caused by agricultural runoff is cited as the most pressing pollution problem and greatly contributes to the Dead Zone in the Gulf each year. More must be done upstream in the ” farm belt” to address this problem and under Matt’s leadership GRN is actively engaged in the ongoing struggle to make that happen. Check out this blog for Matt’s take on last year’s Dead Zone. In addition, bacterial pollution, especially the presence of E. coli, which is linked to both current sewage treatment facilities and the runoff that contains livestock manure, also makes large stretches of the Mississippi River and its floodwaters, well, nasty. The river also bears the brunt of many chemical spills and leaks both up and downstream. A flooded river will likely worsen this problem because of the location of a myriad of oil and gas facilities and open waste pits up and down the floodway. Check out this map by our friends at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade which shows just how many facilities are in the path of the flood.Finally, this flood reminds us of the missed opportunity to capture and use the massive amount of sediment flowing downstream to replenish starving wetlands. Because of the levees and rock jetties that control the river’s path, vital land building sediment normally flows straight into the Gulf instead of into the wetlands. With the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway much of that flows straight into Lake Pontchartrain. Again, a wasted opportunity.In the coming days and weeks, GRN will continue to provide updates, analysis, and footage from the “Great Flood of 2011” . With the above thoughts in mind, perhaps it is time to come up with another name for it.Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.

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