FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2023
Gov. Edwards Holds Meeting for Latest on the Lower Mississippi Saltwater Intrusion
BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards convened a working group meeting with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as well as parish officials from Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard to discuss the latest updates on the lower Mississippi River saltwater intrusion. As of today, the current timeline for the progression of the saltwater remains the same, and all state and local efforts remain focused on mitigating any further intrusion.
“A lot of good work has taken place thus far and I’m grateful for it, but we still have more work to do,” said Gov. Edwards. “The weather forecast indicates minimal rain for the next two weeks, and if there is any potential increase in the upper Mississippi Valley it will still take some time to reach our state. The mitigation measures in place are still very necessary, and we are continuing to study all additional options that can be used to address this ongoing situation. The USACE is making progress daily on augmenting the sill. October is typically one of the drier months of the year, and there is usually more rainfall in November. We certainly pray that will be the case, but are moving forward based on the facts that we have before us today. I encourage everyone to follow the direction of local officials. We will get through this just as we have with other emergencies and that is by working together. There are four parishes in the country impacted by this event, and there is no doubt that we will be able to satisfy the needs of those communities.”
USACE began construction on the sill Sunday, September 24 and is conducting 24-hour operations. Construction is approximately 14% complete. USACE anticipates having constructed the east side of the navigation notch to its designed elevation by early next week. All work is being closely coordinated with the US Coast Guard and navigation industry to minimize impacts to the deep-draft navigation to the fullest extent possible. Construction of the underwater sill will not impact the ability to barge water to water treatment facilities downriver from the sill location.
Because of the historic drought throughout the Mississippi River Valley, the rate of freshwater flowing down the Mississippi River has been dramatically low, allowing an intrusion of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to make its way upriver. Plaquemines Parish has already been affected by the intrusion, and other parishes are projected to be impacted over the next month including St. Bernard, Jefferson and Orleans. More information can be found at Emergency.la.gov.
Earlier this week, Gov. Edwards announced that the Biden administration approved his request for an Emergency Declaration due to saltwater intrusion. The approval authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support all disaster relief efforts to help alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population. In addition, it will provide emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program limited to temporary measures that address reduced water treatment capability due to saltwater intrusion resulting from low water levels of the Mississippi River for no more than 90 days from the date of declaration, as authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Orleans and Jefferson parishes.