Governor requests federal help for saltwater intrusion

BATON ROUGE — Governor John Bel Edwards has formally put in a request to President Biden for a federal emergency declaration as a result of the recent sea water (saltwater) intrusion in the lower Mississippi River region.

The rate of fresh water flowing down the Mississippi River has been low due to extended drought conditions in Louisiana and across the Mississippi River Valley. As a result of these historic low flow conditions, an intrusion of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is making its way upriver. According to the governor’s office, Plaquemines Parish has already been affected by the intrusion and other parishes are projected to be impacted over the next month, including St. Bernard Parish, Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish.

In some areas, the increased salinity from the saltwater intrusion is forecast to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) maximum standard of 250 mg/L, impacting public water systems and introducing the risk of corrosion to water distribution systems, machinery, and appliances.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducted river surveys and learned that on September 20, 2023, the saltwater wedge overtopped an underwater sill at river mile marker 63.8 near Alliance, Louisiana. The sill is currently being upgraded to improve its ability to slow the saltwater intrusion. The underwater sill is a temporary protective measure constructed under USACE authority to mitigate intrusion.

Once approved, the federal emergency declaration will provide federal assistance to reimburse ongoing response and temporary mitigation efforts as well as authorize assistance from other federal partners.

“I want to thank everyone at the state and local level who have been leading this fight, along with our partners at the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Governor Edwards. “We have had discussions with FEMA about the unique challenges we face with this event. We are optimistic the President will approve our Federal Emergency Declaration, which will be crucial to help our communities along the lower Mississippi River.”

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