Saltwater Intrusion Prompts Louisiana Governor to Request Federal Emergency Declaration

By Evelina Rivers
Published September 26, 2023

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Louisiana – On September 25, 2023, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards appealed to President Joseph Biden to declare a Federal Emergency due to the recent invasion of seawater or saltwater in the lower Mississippi River area.

The Mississippi River’s fresh water flow has been limited due to prolonged dry conditions in Louisiana and throughout the Mississippi River Valley. These historically low flow rates have allowed saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to creep upstream. Plaquemines Parish has already experienced the intrusion and it is forecasted that additional parishes, such as St. Bernard Parish, Jefferson Parish, and Orleans Parish, may also be affected in the coming month.

In certain regions, the rise in salinity due to the intrusion of saltwater is predicted to surpass the maximum limit of 250 mg/L set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This overrun could potentially affect public water infrastructures and heighten the risk of rust to water distribution networks, machinery, and appliances.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) carried out investigations on rivers and discovered that on September 20, 2023, saltwater intrusion overtopped an underwater barrier at river milepost 63.8 close to Alliance, Louisiana. Currently, enhancements are being made to the barrier to boost its effectiveness in halting the penetration of saltwater.

The USACE had established this underwater barrier as a fleeting safeguarding technique to lessen intrusion.

Once sanctioned, the Federal Emergency Declaration will offer federal aid to compensate for ongoing response and transient mitigation efforts. It will also authorize support from other federal collaborators.

“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.”