By Rev’d Canon John A. Kellogg, The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
Early on a recent Monday morning, Bishop Thompson and I made our way down the east bank of the Mississippi River to hop on an airboat and learn about the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion. Having spent the prior weekend in meetings, it was a gift to enjoy a sunny morning out on the water. There are few places that rival the natural beauty of south Louisiana. I am reminded of that every time I take a drive outside of the city.
After boarding the airboat, we glided across the top of the water as we learned about the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion. When the gates of the diversion are open, the river is able to flow into the surrounding low-lying area. Originally intended to help the local oyster industry by controlling the salinity of the area, this diversion has inadvertently captured enough sediment to produce a new wetland area—which I found fascinating. This gorgeous wetland is now a thriving ecosystem (we missed out on seeing any alligators but were visited by plenty of butterflies) and provides protection against storm surge.
Though I am broadly interested in coastal preservation, I knew nothing about the purpose of diversions. This tour taught me that projects like the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion provide the benefits of building new wetlands and creating a barrier against hurricanes. While Caernarvon was never built or operated to build land, indeed it has, demonstrating the importance of sediment diversions that will be designed and operated to build and maintain wetlands in our region. In other words, diversions can both restore and protect our coast—a win/win—and are the type of forward-thinking project that we need more of! Every time I gather with Helen Rose and the Restore the Mississippi River Delta team, I realize that I have much to learn, and that there is so much more that I want to learn. I look forward to our next trip and to helping our Episcopal congregations plug further into environmental stewardship efforts.