A review of sediment diversion in the Mississippi River Deltaic Plain

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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd One of the proposed methods for restoring the disappearing Mississippi Delta is sediment diversion which uses channels and structures to divert water and sediment from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers into adjacent basins. This study presents a comprehensive review of geological and physical aspects of sediment dynamics in the Mississippi River Deltaic Plain (MRDP), with special reference to diversion studies over the past two decades. We synthesize these studies, present the current understanding of sediment diversions in the context of sediment dynamics, identify multiple key knowledge gaps, and make recommendations for future studies. To maximize net land building in the MRDP, management strategies should be focused on (a) enhancing river sediment delivery (both mud and sand), (b) increasing sediment retention in receiving basins and (c) minimizing erosion in bays and estuaries. Compared with extensive studies of land building, there have been relatively fewer studies of erosional processes. A heterogeneous coastal geological framework, cohesive sediment erodibility and subsidence together play complicated yet critical roles in future sediment dynamics in bays and estuaries of the MRDP. Sediment retention rates are highly sensitive to spatial and temporal scales, types of sediments and delivery season. Sediment diversions to seaward receiving basins provide more surge protection but tend to have lower sediment retention due to active coastal processes. Structures and devices that improve sediment retention, trap sediments, dissipate waves, and build living shorelines should be explored and cost-to-benefit analysis is needed. Long-term planning should consider more landward diversions, strategic community relocation, and nonlinear response of the complex sedimentary system of the MRDP.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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