Threats, restoration and hope along the Pearl River

By: Andrew Whitehurst
The idea that the Pearl River needs restoration and not more disturbance is gaining traction with state agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi that are now discussing the decommissioning of the Pearl River Navigational Canal. The Pearl has the fourth-largest fresh water discharge in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, so it is very important to swamps and coastal wetlands in Louisiana and Mississippi. Compared to the river systems to the east, like the Pascagoula; and those to the west feeding Lake Pontchartrain, the Pearl River has suffered more disturbance and needs restoration.
The Pearl has seen many man-made changes since 1950. Gary Parker, of Bogalusa, has lived through them and keeps a running list. He is retired now, but this Pearl River enthusiast learned in his youth to navigate, fish and hunt along the lower river. Downstream of navigation locks near Bogalusa, Parker and others have watched a hazardous, mile-long log jam grow since Hurricane Isaac. Log jams have formed and have been removed over the years, but this one is now receiving some needed attention from state agencies. Since 1963, the river below Jackson, Mississippi has been at the mercy of the Ross Barnett Reservoir and the management of its dam floodgates. Reservoir outflow amplifies both annual low and high water periods downstream.
The Pearl is a "working" river basin with more than 100 permitted dischargers in Mississippi and Louisiana. Small businesses discharge a few thousand gallons of treated wastewater per day, while major industries and bigger cities individually can add between one and ten million gallons per day. Flow is a big deal in permits because there must be enough flowing water to dilute wastewater. The Walkiah Bluff diversion structure is meant to divide flow between the East and West Pearl channels. It can be hard to predict water movements due to flooding or storm surges because the Pearl's lower floodplain has been changed since the 1970s when Interstate 10 and Highway 59 changed flow patterns with roadways elevated above swamp level and acting like dams.

A new dam and lake project proposed for the urban section of the Pearl River in Jackson, Mississippi won’t ease water quantity issues downstream. Plans for this "One Lake" project for flood control and riverfront development should be published for comment this fall by the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District. Promoters are selling the idea that a lake can provide both flood control and riverfront business development. The project needs a close examination by those living downstream who have seen the worst of nearly 70 years of change.
The Pearl has long provided quality habitats for wildlife and fish, but Parker says ecological changes and invasive species are stressing the river and its wetlands. He cites the explosion of the feral hog population and their constant rooting that wrecks vegetation along stream banks, disturbs soil and adds to erosion and sediment problems. “Our native wildlife and fish are suffering the effects,” says Parker.
Hurricanes flatten swamps; saltwater intrusion changes swamp to marsh, amplified flooding carries more plastic and household trash downstream. “It seems to be increasing every day,” Parker says; “At this pace, the basin cannot and will not survive.” With Mississippi pouring millions of dollars into marsh and oyster restoration at the mouth of the east Pearl, he asks: “How will that survive without a healthy river system upstream of it?” Restoration of the Pearl and the coastal wetlands in both states is less likely to succeed if another dam and lake are built near Jackson and adversely affect basic flow.
“The Pearl River is crying out for help,” Parker says, and until now not enough people have been listening; but there is hope for change. On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Pearl River Clean Sweep will be the first trash cleanup attempted over the river’s full 490 miles from its headwaters near Philadelphia, Mississippi to the mouth at Lake Borgne. The Pearl’s Riverkeeper, Abby Braman, is coordinating this event. State Rep. Malinda Brumfield White, of Bogalusa, has been very supportive of the Pearl Clean Sweep and Abby’s efforts. To learn more or volunteer, visit Gary Parker, Abby, and many volunteers will be in boats removing trash and making a statement that this September, there is a new outlook for this river.

Andrew Whitehurst is water program director for Gulf Restoration Network and focuses on Mississippi water and wetland issues.


Automation to Deliver Sea Change in Cargo Transport

Automation and transportation have come together in the air in the form of drones.  On land, many tech companies and automakers are working on self-driving cars.  Although we don’t hear quite as much about is the application of the technology to transport over water, we may see it become a reality within just a few years.

Back in 2014, Rolls Royce presented its concept for an autonomous ship.  The BBC report quoted Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce's vice president of innovation, engineering and technology, "Now it is time to consider a road map to unmanned vessels of various types. Sometimes what was unthinkable yesterday is tomorrow's reality.”

However, the law had not yet caught up to that reality. Simon Bennett, a representative of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), ascertained that international law still did not allow for crewless ships. He told the BBC that a legal change "would require a complete overhaul of the regulatory regime.”

There are those working on achieving that change. The BBC report referred to an EU-funded project working toward ships that could function without crews. Called Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence (MUNIN). In addition to making it technically feasible, MUNIN aims to work out the necessary changes in legislation to allow autonomous ships to function.

It envisions “highly advanced navigation systems” that would analyze conditions toavert accidents. As in the case of some of these sensor systems engineered to enable autonomous functions in cars, the plan is to apply the technology even for ships that are driven by people, as they could “support the officer of the watch.” That in itself could prove very valuable in light of the “human error” blamed for the recent collision of the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship.

After working at it for three years, they may have achieved some movement on the legal end. Among the items on the agenda for the 98th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)  this past June was: “Scoping exercise proposed on autonomous vessels.” That was described as: “The MSC will be invited to consider proposals for the Committee to undertake a regulatory scoping exercise to determine how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) may be introduced in IMO instruments.”

Progress can be slow, but at least the ball is starting to roll toward reshaping shipping regulations to allow the legal reality to catch up with the technological reality.

Though no autonomous ships are carrying cargo yet, Rolls Royce’s Levander asserted at the beginning of this year, “ we expect fully autonomous oceangoing cargo ships to be routinely plying the world’s seas in 10 or 15 years’ time.”  In support of that view, Rolls Royce created this video that imagines the short control of the future.

In fact, that vision may even occur within the decade, according to BHP one of the largest dry bulk charterers in the world. At the end of May, it described its vision for a “safer, greener and leaner” freight approach. Automation is part of that equation, according to BHP:
Building on automation and remote-operation changes in our land-based supply chain, autonomous vessels offer significant opportunities to improve safety (removing people from dangerous tasks and more data-driven decision-making) and provide better efficiency outcomes to the marine supply chain. Safe and efficient autonomous vessels carrying BHP cargo, powered by BHP gas, is our vision for the future of dry bulk shipping. We believe that future could manifest within a decade.
Should the autonomous ships come to fruition, the savings on logistical costs would be enormous. Bloomberg estimates as much as “$86 billion a year” for the larger iron mine players. But even for smaller players, crewless ships offer the same promise of greater efficiency that other automated technologies contribute to processes and transport.

Undoubtedly, automated ships can bring about a sea-change in the logistical side of the electronic supply chain. And with the support of legislative change, as well as major players, that change may arrive within the next ten years.  


New EPA Tool Helps Communities Access More Than $10 Billion in Water Infrastructure Financing

New EPA tool gives communities access to information and financing opportunities that will help improve water quality and protect public health

07/26/2017     Contact Information: (

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is launching the Water Finance Clearinghouse, a web‐based portal to help communities make informed financing decisions for their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure needs. The Clearinghouse provides communities with a searchable database with more than $10 billion in water funding sources and over 550 resources to support local water infrastructure projects. It consolidates and expands upon existing EPA-supported databases to create a one-stop-shop for all community water finance needs. The Water Finance Clearinghouse was developed by EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, an information and assistance center that provides financing information to help local decision makers make informed decisions for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure to reach their public health and environmental goals.

“Every day, Americans depend on water infrastructure to ensure that their drinking water is safe and that local waterways stay clean,” said EPA’s Office of Water’s Deputy Assistant Administrator D. Lee Forsgren. “Investing in water infrastructure sustains local economies by creating jobs, protecting public health, and increasing quality of life. EPA’s Clearinghouse is a vital portal that helps connect communities with the information and tools they need to finance much needed water infrastructure improvement projects.” 
Many communities around the country have aging or inadequate water infrastructure: each year approximately 240,000 main breaks occur while elsewhere billions of gallons of raw sewage are discharged into local surface waters from aging conveyance systems. Communities increasingly need efficient access to up-to-date water finance information to rehabilitate or replace their water infrastructure. EPA’s new Water Finance Clearinghouse meets this need.
The Water Finance Clearinghouse gives local decision makers an opportunity to search for available funding sources for water infrastructure as well as resources (such as reports, webpages, and webinars) on financing mechanisms and approaches that can help communities access capital to meet their water infrastructure needs. State, federal, local, and foundation funding sources and resources on public-private partnerships, asset management practices, revenue models, and affordability approaches are included in the Clearinghouse.
The Water Finance Clearinghouse is updated in real-time, following a crowdsourcing model. States, federal agencies, and other water sector stakeholders have the ability to suggest edits and new resources or funding options at any time through the Contributor Portal. Stakeholders can use this interactive feature to manage how their programs and initiatives are displayed in the Clearinghouse.  
EPA webinars on how to use the Clearinghouse are scheduled for:
  • July 27
  • July 31
  • August 3
  • August 14
  • August 18
  • August 24
  • August 31
All webinars will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern. You can register at:


The Port of Gulfport is on the move! There are $450M worth of improvements planned.

The Port of Gulfport is preparing to gear up for a major addition coming to the port's west terminal. A global company called SeaOne will ship liquid gas on vessels leaving the port to markets in Central America.
The port is part of a process on the cutting edge.
"It's brand new technology, they do have a Department of Energy permit. Gulfport is the only port in the United States authorized to ship this form of gas," said port director Jonathan Daniels.
The product will be shipped throughout the Caribbean basin. Trucks and rail cars will not be used. A pipeline will be constructed to move gas down to SeaOne facilities that will be built at the port.
"There will be two large scale pipelines from just north of I-10 underground, and ultimately attach to a facility on the port site," said Daniels. 
The authority signed a 40-year lease with SeaOne. The project represents a private investment of $450 million. No public funding will be used to finance the effort.
That plan bodes well for tax revenue collected from the SeaOne pipeline, liquid gas plant and cargo facility.
"What that means [is] because it's not owned by the Port Authority, it's taxable. They have struck agreements with the county, city, and the school district. Usually you see projects on the port with a minimal amount of taxes, this will allow for about $4.5 million a year for the first 10 years," according to Daniels
SeaOne is expected to break ground on the project in 2018, and should be up and running in 2020.


$43 million for coastal restoration, infrastructure coming to Mississippi

Artist’s rendering of proposed Mississippi Aquarium in downtown Gulfport

More than $43 million in federal grants will help fund six Mississippi Gulf Coast projects focused on coastal restoration and transportation infrastructure, Gov. Phil Bryant announced Wednesday.

The grants were doled out by the U.S. Department of the Treasury per the federal Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act of 2012. The RESTORE Act is one of a handful of pots of federal money that provide funding to the Gulf region to restore ecosystems and rebuild local economies damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

The projects, originally announced in late 2015, are part of Mississippi’s Multiyear Implementation Plan, which prioritizes the eligible projects to receive these types of Treasury funds, called the Direct Component.

Some eligible activities under this plan include restoration and protection of natural resources; mitigation of damage to natural resources; workforce development and job creation; improvements to state parks; infrastructure projects, including ports; coastal flood protection; and, promotion of tourism and Gulf seafood.

So far, the state’s proposed projects under this plan total more than $54.1 million, a statement from the governor’s office said.
This wave of projects includes:
  • Constructing the Coastal Community Gallery Building on the Mississippi Aquarium campus, a roughly 42,000 square foot space that will serve as the primary aquarium building ($17 million)
  • Constructing new hangar at the Stennis International Airport to support aerospace industry growth ($2 million)
  • Workforce development and job creation via an Off-bottom Oyster Aquaculture Program, which supports training in alternative oyster harvesting methods for Gulf Coast oystermen and fishermen ($1 million)
  • Planning assessments to identify how to improve fiber optic infrastructure along the Mississippi Gulf Coast ($5 million)
  • Completing improvements to the Port Bienville Trans-Loading Terminal Facility. The project will build about 1,600 linear feet of rail spur, 1,200 linear feet of bulkhead, and 9,300 square yards of dock area so the terminal can be used for shipping materials via multiple modes of transportation; shipping container operations; and supply vessels in the offshore industry. ($8 million)
  • Constructing the Jackson County Corridor Connector Road, which is 1.1 miles of roadway connecting Mallett Road/Sangani Boulevard to Cook Road. This would be phase one of a multi-phased project to expand the area’s transportation networks ($10.2 million)


Congressman Alan Lowenthal Introduces Bill to Address Nation’s Freight Needs

“National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act” would provide roughly $8 billion annually, dedicated to goods movement infrastructure 

On June 22, 2017 Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the “National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act.” This bipartisan legislation would create a sustained, dedicated revenue source to strengthen America’s economic competitiveness by investing in the rebuilding of crumbling U.S. freight infrastructure. 

According to Congressman Lowenthal’s office, H.R. 3001 would raise around $8 billion a year through implementation of a national one percent waybill fee on the cost of transporting goods. Funding would be collected in a Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund, and annual collections would be divided evenly between two programs: a formula program that provides funds to each state, and a competitive grant program available to local, regional and state governments. According to the Congressman, funding would be dedicated to freight-related infrastructure projects throughout the nation, with a focus on multimodal projects and projects that rebuild aging infrastructure while relieving bottlenecks in the freight transportation system. 

“Goods movement is the backbone of our economy. In order to maintain the standing of the United States as a global economic leader, we must invest in expanding the capacity, reliability, and efficiency of our nation’s goods movement system and freight infrastructure,” Congressman Lowenthal said in a press release. “And yet, that infrastructure is crumbling around us. We must take action to rebuild it and strengthen it, all in a way that also addresses the negative impacts of goods movement on our communities.” 

During the 114th Congress, Representative Lowenthal introduced the “Economy in Motion Act,” which is largely similar to “National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act.” The freight policy and programming achievements made under the FAST Act advanced principles that were included in “Economy in Motion,” necessitating revisions to the original bill. 

Eleven co-sponsors joined Congressman Lowenthal in his introduction of “The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act,” including Representatives Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Grace Napolitano (D-C), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Mark Takano (D-CA).


Maritime & Port ISAO & Wapack Labs Advance Maritime & Port Critical Infrastructure Cyber Resilience

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - May 15, 2017 -  The Maritime and Port Security Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (MPS-ISAO) and Wapack Labs announce today a collaborative partnership to advance real-time access to sector-specific cyber threat intelligence for Maritime & Port owners and operators and the supply chains that support them.

The MPS-ISAO, a non-profit organization, officially launched in May 2016, is dedicated to a mission of enabling and sustaining Maritime & Port cyber resilience. This is accomplished through the availability of MPS-ISAO real-time cyber threat intelligence including Maritime & Port community contributed information and multi-directional (cross-sector) information sharing and coordinated response working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the International Association of Certified ISAOs (IACI), and academic, technology and security strategic collaborative partners.

The partnership announced today with Wapack Labs expands access to sector-specific cyber intelligence, analysis of community data via strict information sharing protocols, and response capabilities for Maritime & Port stakeholders and their supply chains.

Deborah Kobza, MPS-ISAO Executive Director states, "The Maritime & Port sector is increasingly vulnerable and actively being attacked by a variety of adversaries including nation states, organized crime, hacktivists and insider threats focused on espionage, human trafficking, financial gain, supply chain disruption, identity and intellectual property theft, or to gain a competitive advantage. Many physical and cyber systems used in ports and maritime, such as navigation/GPS, physical security, communication, energy, environmental controls, industrial control systems (ICS), emergency controls, operations, cargo tracking, terminal operations, and cruise transportation, represent cyber attack targets. This partnership with Wapack Labs advances the capability of Maritime & Port stakeholders to move from a reactive to proactive cyber resilience stance."

Wapack Labs joined the MPS-ISAO's invitation-only webinar in March, "Interconnectedness in the Maritime Industry? First Let Me Tell You a Story.", to present their private research which identified a financially motivated cyber adversary who has compromised thousands of port and maritime organizations and over a million user accounts. The MPS-ISAO and Wapack Labs will use this cyber intelligence research as a jumping-off point to increase industry awareness and protection.

Christy Coffey, Director of Strategic Alliances, adds, "Wapack Labs is a perfectly suited partner for the MPS-ISAO. Their unique combination of cyber threat intelligence production with deep maritime and ports roots increases the level of early threat awareness that we can provide to our stakeholders. Wapack Labs have been tracking adversaries targeting this industry for a few years now, and so having them on our watch provides immediate gains."

Wapack Labs' bolsters the MPS-ISAO's ability to deliver Cyber Intelligence as a combination of industry-specific and personalized cyber threat intelligence, shared multi-directional sector and cross-sector information, advanced analytics, coordinated response, and training on topics of high interest. By participating in the MPS-ISAO, Maritime & Port stakeholders grow their understanding of vulnerabilities and risk so that they can proactively protect their organizations.

"We are excited to be working with the MPS-ISAO", said Jeffery Stutzman, a co-founder and CEO for Wapack Labs. It's imperative that we elevate cyber awareness in this important industry, and get ahead of threat actors. The MPS-ISAO - with the help of Wapack Labs' Cyber Threat Analysis Center (CTAC) are force multipliers - real game changers in Maritime and Port industry cybersecurity."

A 2016 report published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (DHS/OCIA), "Consequences to Seaport Operations From Malicious Cyber Activity", states that a "cyber attack at a port or aboard a ship could result in lost cargo, port disruptions, and physical and environmental damage", and a disruption to U.S. ports can have a cascading affect to "Critical Manufacturing, Commercial Facilities, Food and Agriculture, Energy, Chemical, and Transportation Systems". This report includes a "Seaport Economics" section that details economic data points associated with sea trade.

About the MPS-ISAO: Headquartered at the Global Situational Awareness Center (GSAC) at NASA/Kennedy Space Center, the MPS-ISAO is private sector-led working in collaboration with government to advance Port and Maritime cyber resilience. The core mission to enable and sustain a safe, secure and resilient Maritime and Port Critical Infrastructure through security situational intelligence, bi-directional information sharing, coordinated response, and best practice adoption supported by role-based education. The MPS-ISAO is a founding member of the International Association of Certified ISAOs (IACI). More information at:

About Wapack Labs Corporation: Wapack Labs located in New Boston, NH is a privately held cyber intelligence company delivering in-depth strategic cyber threat activities, intelligence, analysis, reporting and indicators. Products are delivered through collaborative portals, private messaging and email, in multiple human readable and machine-to-machine form. Since 2011, Wapack Labs' have focused on tracking and profiling cyber adversaries, their tools, targets, attack methods, and delivering to subscribers in a way that can be quickly applied to the protection of computers, networks, and business operations. More information at:


Jackson’s “One Lake” project: Pearl River flow and nutrient pollution problems

Picayune Item Staff Report:

There is a pending permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dam the Pearl River and build a 1,500 acre lake in the Jackson, Mississippi metro-area. The proposed “One Lake” project is moving rapidly and begs for close scrutiny from all interests that rely on the Pearl River to safely and legally discharge their regulated wastewater.   
In Mississippi alone, 98 industries, businesses and municipalities have wastewater discharge permits affecting the Pearl River and its tributaries. Twenty municipal sewage plants depend on the Pearl River in Mississippi. Jackson, West Rankin, Picayune, Poplarville and Columbia are capable of a combined discharge of 92.5 million gallons per day of treated sewage. Terry, Byram, Mendenhall, New Hebron and Monticello, combined, can add another 1.5 million gallons per day. 
In Louisiana there are dozens of permit holders in Washington and St. Tammany Parishes, including Bogalusa International Paper mill, and the towns of Bogalusa, and Pearl River. They all need stable flows and adequate dilution on the Pearl and its tributaries.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issues permits requiring permit holders to treat their wastewater before releasing it into the Pearl or a tributary. Because there are other sources of wastewater going into the Pearl, like runoff from parking lots, farms and septic systems, the Pearl River is on the MDEQ Impaired Waters List. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus is ending up in the Pearl, so limits on the amount of these pollutants put into the Pearl have been written into permits held by industry, business and municipalities.  Too much of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds cause excess algae and plankton to grow, and too much algae and plankton choke the life out of a river.  Abundant algae and plankton growth, plus high summer temperatures rob the water of oxygen and can cause fish kills.  Permit limits for nitrogen and phosphorus manage this risk to public health and the environment, but they also add costs to permit holders, which are passed on to customers and taxpayers.
There must also be adequate water in a receiving stream to mix with and dilute the wastewater. Pollutant limits are important, but so is the flow of the river where the waste mixture is being released.  Permit holders run into problems when stream flows are reduced and proper waste dilution isn’t possible.  Reduced flows in our rivers happen each summer and fall when rainfall amounts are seasonally low. But there are other threats to flow, like the kind of dam being proposed for the Pearl.  Dams threaten to limit flow, and limiting flow makes it tough to comply with wastewater discharge permits. The Pearl River is under such a threat now.
On top of limiting flow with a dam, the surface area of an impounded lake evaporates much more water than the surface of a flowing river. More evaporation can affect flow and the dilution of pollutants. In 2013, the St. Tammany Parish engineering department examined evaporation predictions for this 1,500 acre lake project and calculated a possible reduction of 90 cubic feet per second of flow at their end of the Pearl River. That kind of reduction can have a significant impact on permits, and on the health of the river downstream.
With water being evaporated now off of the Barnett Reservoir, and more evaporative loss from the surface of a second lake, the permit holders downstream should consider how a new lake will affect them.
The “One Lake” sponsors claim that harmful changes to flow from a new lake and dam won’t hurt downstream interests on the Pearl.  But once 1,500 acres are dredged, dammed and developed, it will be too late. The Drainage District sponsoring the project received permission from Congress to self-fund the required studies and environmental impact statements. This “self- funding” involved state money:  the Mississippi Development Authority provided a $1 million Industry Incentive grant in 2013.   Downstream permit holders must do their homework and closely examine the draft Environmental Impact Statement and feasibility studies that are expected to come out in the next few weeks. More changes in Pearl River flow will make complying with permit limits more difficult and more expensive. The Pearl River needs restoration, not more dams.
By Andrew E. Whitehurst
Water Program Director
Gulf Restoration Network
Reprinted with permission from the Picayune Item


I want to say one word to you.

In the movie The Graduate, a young Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin, a recent college grad wondering what to make of his life. He’s approached by Mr. McGuire, a friend of his parents:
McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

I have similar, one-word advice for water resources specialists: Systems.

Perhaps you’re as confused as Benjamin, or maybe it’s old news. I find that most practitioners fail to comprehend how important systems thinking is to good water resources management, good policy, good everything. A lack of systems thinking produces unanticipated problems in every field. Systems thinking prevents many problems.

The standard definition is that systems thinking is holistic – it considers not just the component of interest but also the linkages and interactions of all the other components affected by and affecting that component. It recognizes the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.

That’s too dry to be meaningful, so here’s an example: A dam on a river pools water upstream, flattening the slope and slowing the flow. The flow rates also change downstream, reducing some flows and increasing others, depending on the dam’s operational rules. Sediment deposits in the upstream pool and erodes downstream of the dam, changing the river bed and water surface profile. Those changes propagate upstream and downstream great distances, altering river hydraulics far from the site. Water temperature, residence time, evaporation, and reaeration rates change as the flow is slowed and stored, sometimes changing water quality.  Groundwater rises or falls depending on demand vs supply. Some aquatic species prefer impounded water, others can’t handle it, so the biological community changes. Lakeside properties become desirable home sites, so septic systems, fertilizer and pesticide runoff increase. Construction site erosion contributes faster runoff and more sediment. Increased population increases needed water, highway, school, and other government services, so tax revenue must rise. The effects, both favorable and unfavorable, spread farther and farther from the dam, affecting the physical, biological, economics, and social fabric of an entire region.

A transportation example: The U.S. manages transportation by looking only at one mode at a time instead of a system for moving people and goods. Each mode – highway, railway, airline, waterway and pipeline – has a separate set of practitioners and advocates when they should be viewed as an integrated system of balanced choices. With few exceptions, mass transit is managed as a competitor to personal vehicles instead of a complimentary component of a single system. Politicians rant about subsidizing Amtrak while happily supporting massive subsidies for highways, which encourage urban sprawl, requiring still more highways.

The Corps of Engineers has attempted to address systems effects in water resources with programs like Regional Sediment Management and Engineering with Nature. EPA has long advocated a watershed approach to air and water quality issues. Both run up against hard political boundaries that limit the approach. Some local and state departments of transportation, notably Mississippi’s, demonstrate an enlightened understanding of transportation as a multi-modal system, but the U.S. Congress and Federal DOT wear blinders, seeing only one piece, one project at a time.

What to do? First, teach systems thinking in school, starting with high school and continuing in college and professional schools. Professional societies can organize conferences and encourage systems-oriented papers just as they do case studies, with a separate journal section. They can offer continuing education on systems approaches in various disciplines. They can educate the public, politicians, and agencies. As individuals, we can search out books and short courses to help us open our horizons. A good place to start is the book, Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows. We can educate and encourage our elected officials to think in terms of holistic systems.

Are you listening? “Systems.”


2016 Riser Program Irrigation Summary

By Jason Krutz, Irrigation Specialist and Dan Roach, Ext. Associate

The Row-Crop Irrigation Science and Extension Research (RISER) was developed as a science based approach to evaluating irrigation Best Management Practices (BMPs) here in the Delta. The RISER program is designed to assist producers in reducing water use while maintaining yield and profitability. Growers participating in the RISER program agree to allow the MSU researcher to manage the irrigation decisions on one field while the producer manages the control.
Since 2013, the RISER program encompassed over thirty-six producer fields covering all major soil types here in the Delta. While maintaining yield, the Riser program participants reduced their water use by 25% over the controls. These results demonstrate the potential for computerized hole selection (PHAUCET or Pipe Planner), surge irrigation,and soil moisture sensors to improve water use efficiency and producer profitability.
With observations from twenty locations, the RISER soybean trials yields were equivalent to the fields managed by the producer. Water use was reduced by 21% and water use efficiency improved by 36%. Producer profitability was increased by $13 per acre.
Similarly, the RISER corn trials consisted of  sixteen locations. Results from RISER corn trials demonstrate the utility of irrigation timing tools such as moisture sensors. Utilizing moisture sensors to trigger irrigation allowed the MSU researcher to reduce water use by 3.9 acre inches,  a 41% reduction in comparison to the producer. Corn yields were increased by 7 bushels and overall profitability was increased by $27 per acre.

For more information or request for participation in this years Riser Demonstrations, Dr Krutz can be contacted at 662 588 8974.


Are rivers wasted water?

In “Just the Two of Us” the great Bill Withers sings:
Wasted water's all that is
And it don't make no flowers grow.

He’s talking about tears being wasted water but some folks make the same argument about rivers flowing into the sea. Just think of how we might use the Mississippi River’s billions upon billions of gallons in productive ways. A prominent engineer once praised the idea of diverting some of the Mississippi’s flow and conveying it along the Interstate 20 median to thirsty west Texas. “We could make the desert bloom!” he cried, “Instead of wasting it into the Gulf.” Growing flowers instead of growing the Gulf’s hypoxic zone.

But is it really wasted? Large chunks of Louisiana are already sinking into the sea because the Mississippi River’s sediment supply has fallen drastically. Without fresh water to sustain them, those Louisiana and Mississippi marshes would disappear even faster. Without fresh water the vast coastal nurseries for shrimp, oysters, finfish, and other creatures would become too salty and our already stressed Gulf fisheries would collapse. Without the river’s huge flow, multiple cities in Louisiana would lose their only source of water for cities and industries. Those are some steep costs to make west Texas bloom.

Pick your depiction: Dams on rivers provide flood damage reduction, water supply, recreation, navigation, power generation, and desirable home sites; or dams on rivers turn lovely, flowing streams into unsightly mud puddles, prevent fish migration, drown beautiful valleys, destroy ecosystems, and endanger everyone downstream. Unfortunately, seeing only one of these two extremes is typical of the debate. Some people see only benefits of capturing river flows; others see only losses, and arguments between them generate lots of heat but very little useful light.

Here are some proposed truths about rivers and their uses:
·         Harnessing rivers through dams and diversions has both advantages and disadvantages.
·         Advantages may include economic, environmental, aesthetic, and social benefits.
·         Disadvantages may include economic, environmental, aesthetic, and social losses.
·         A calm discussion of the advantages and the disadvantages is needed to decide which outweighs the other for a majority of our people, now and in the future.

·         Shouting slogans at each other prevents a meaningful discussion. 
NASA Terra Satellite Photo of the Mississippi River plume and nearby coastlines.
Courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).


In Fast-Moving World, Slow-Going Barges Ply US Waterways

By  Ted Landphair
A small, but mighty, tugboat pushes a barge loaded with coal up the Ohio River, past downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
Barges haul about 5 percent of the nation’s bulk tonnage
These days, words like “speed,” “flexibility,” and “high-tech” describe the American culture - and a lot of the nation’s business operations.

But not one that’s based on the nation’s inland rivers.

The companies that control the 21,000 barges that towboats and tugboats push and pull along big rivers such as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee in America’s midsection have none of those attributes.
Barges move ever so slowly - about 9.5 kilometers [6 miles] an hour. There’s not much flexibility in what they do: the rivers are where they are, and strings of 60-meter [195-foot]-long barges get to their destination in their own sweet time. 

This is one of four massive barges that broke away from their towboat on the Ohio River last April. One sank.

Or late, due to floods, low water, or problems that arise in the old and creaky locks along the big rivers.

There’s a lot of waiting and patience involved in the barge business, in other words.

About the only high-tech features involve safety on board and coordination of delivery of coal, chemicals, and grain from their source to river ports for loading.

Otherwise, the barges that carry about 1,700 tons of cargo apiece - 15 times the tonnage of a rail car and 40 times more than a truck can carry - are pretty much the same as they were in the 1920s.
That’s when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began dredging America’s large inland waterways to create deep channels to accommodate barge traffic. 

Barges haul about five percent of the nation’s bulk tonnage, and business is relatively good.
Grain production has been booming, although more and more of the nation’s corn stays put on dry land for conversion to ethanol.
And the Ohio, in particular, is still jammed with coal barges feeding coal-fired power plants along the river.

But lucrative traffic in containers arriving from overseas has mostly bypassed the rivers in favor of roads, despite the higher cost of trucks and trains. Why? Because, unlike barge companies and captains, container shippers and their customers are in a hurry.


Restoring the Lower Pearl River Restoration Project

The Lower Pearl River in Pearl River and Hancock Counties Mississippi is the boundary between Mississippi and Louisiana.  The Basin has two river systems; the Pearl River (sometimes referred to as the “East Pearl”) which separates Mississippi and Louisiana and the West Pearl which flows through Louisiana. The two rivers are connected by numerous branches, sloughs and bayous that flow westward from the Pearl River to contribute flows to Louisiana’s West Pearl River.  During low- flow periods, 85-90% of the Pearl River’s flow was diverted into the West Pearl River because of construction, neglect, and the Pearl River’s normal actions.  Without some action, the Lower Pearl River would soon cease to flow in Pearl River and Hancock Counties.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Pearl River Basin Development District (PRBDD) worked with Mississippi’s Congressional to get the Lower Pearl River Project funded as a wetlands restoration project through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) in 1994.   The project was designed to achieve a 50/50 low-flow split for an 18-mile reach of the Lower Pearl River from Wilson Slough downstream to Holmes Bayou to provide a net wetlands gain and protect threatened and endangered mussel beds.  The Project’s main elements were:
1.            Construct an earth-filled weir at the inlet of Wilson Slough;
2.            Close outlets at Brier Patch, Moore’s, and Icebox Bayous and an unnamed channel; and,
3.            Excavate a channel on the Pearl River downstream of Wilson Slough.

The COE completed construction of the project in late 1998 and turned the project over to the PRBDD to operate and maintain.  The federal government through the COE provided 100% of the project’s study and permitting costs of $749,150.  The $4,166,893 design and construction costs were split 75/25 with the federal share being $3,125,170 and the sponsor’s share being $1,041,723.

However the Wilson Slough weir was seriously damaged by high water almost immediately and the COE had to assume responsibility for the project again in early 1999.  The weir was seriously damaged again in 2002.  The federal government assumed 100% of the $4,730,866 repair costs.

Despite the repairs, the project has never been able to meet the design goal of 50/50 low-flow allocation.  As of late 2010 the COE reported that the project had only been able to achieve an 85%/15% low-flow allocation between the Pearl and the West Pearl Rivers.  As the project’s local sponsor, the PRBDD has attempted to get the COE to re-evaluate and re-design the project to meet its design goals.

In 2015, the PRBDD applied to the COE for $100,000 of Continuing Authorities Program section 1135 funds (Project Modification for Environmental Benefit) to investigate the project and determine what modifications would be necessary to achieve the original 50/50 low flow allocation.  The PRBDD and the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors are working together with Mississippi’s Congressional Delegation to ensure that the COE funds this important project in 2017.  The PRBDD retained the Pickering Firm to provide technical services for this important regional project to ensure that the Lower Pearl River’s minimum flows continue supporting important ecological, environmental and recreational needs. 


River Locks and Dams - Action Needed - Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock Replacement

The Waterways Council has issued a Call to Action, and that action affects the Port of New Orleans.
Please see what you can do.
Your Help is Needed.  Tell the U.S. Army Corps You Support Replacing the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock in New Orleans.  

Send a pre-written email (you can edit and personalize it) here:

 Send In Your Comments 

We need your help now by sending the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers your opinion. 

The New Orleans district is seeking public input as it considers options for the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock. The lock opened in 1923 and connects the Mississippi River to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the nation's two highest-tonnage waterways.  One option, "Plan 3" includes replacing the existing lock. 
The proposed lock design would facilitate fewer trips through a safer, more efficient structure. This would reduce maintenance costs to the nation, decrease traffic congestion from bridge openings, lessen the number of barges waiting in queue near the lock, diminish noise for surrounding neighborhoods, and increase air quality. With a strong benefit-to-cost ratio of 4.78 to 1, constructing this new lock is a wise investment. 

The March 1 deadline is quickly approaching.  Please utilize our pre-written (you can personalize and make other edits) letter with this link:

 Send In Your Comments


Our declining aquifer is a cause for concern

Here is some good news from one of MWRA’s members – YMD Water Management District

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has reported that the 10% reporting goals established for each Delta county in the voluntary metering program have been met.

     Thanks go out to all the program participants who submitted their 2016 flowmeter reports.

     Meeting this annual goal continues to demonstrate the willingness of Delta farmers to work through voluntary measures to help manage and protect our critical water resources. 

     We appreciate your continued participation in this program.

Kay Whittington, director of the Office of Land and Water Resources at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and Mark Stiles, technical director, Yazoo Water Management District, at the 2016 Mississippi Irrigation Summit.

Ensuring sustainable water supply for Delta's farmers
Is the long-standing draw on the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer sustainable?
Feb 02, 2017
Farmers in the Mississippi Delta have never really had to worry about the availability of ground water. Even when Mother Nature held back precipitation for extended periods, challenging dryland production, wells readily pumped seemingly endless volumes of water to farming irrigation systems.
Is the long-standing draw on the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer sustainable? Will the area’s next generation of farmers have an adequate water supply for their operations?
Those questions and many more like them are being addressed by the Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force, a consortium of organizations that, since 2011, has been working to evaluate the aquifer’s current level, convince producers to establish more efficient irrigation practices, and educate them on the long-term importance of both.
Kay Whittington, director of the Office of Land and Water Resources 
at Mississippi’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), put the problem in perspective, saying, “The number of permitted ground water wells in the Delta has increased from slightly fewer than 3,000 in the 1980s, to over 19,000 today.”

Those wells in the late 1980s had a permitted volume of 900,000 acre feet per year. Today, 19,400 wells are permitted for 5.5 million acre feet per year.
The aquifer does recharge itself, but because of the high volume of water being drawn from it over decades, it cannot recharge fast enough to maintain a sustainable level moving forward — a level that has been declining steadily for over 30 years.
Land subsidence
Land subsidence, the gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface caused by movement in subsoil materials is, thankfully, not a problem in the Delta. It is in many parts of the country.
“The Delta draws from deeper aquifers for drinking water, so there’s no direct competition between water used for irrigation and water used for drinking,” explains Whittington.
Acknowledging the significance of the Delta’s water supply issue, Gov. Phil Bryant issued an executive order in 2014 formalizing the Task Force and instructing the member organizations to work collectively to devise solutions. The group’s guiding principles include: Manage water as efficiently as possible; store it when it is plentiful to use when it is not; and pursue every feasible alternative to attain aquifer sustainability.
Conservation, the group’s initial mantra, is something producers can implement easily, and can yield both immediate and significant benefits. Tailwater recovery systems, instream weirs, and possibly “intra-basin” transfers have the potential to encourage producers to use surface water where it is available instead of ground water.
“We’re also considering transferring ground water from a high volume area of the aquifer and injecting it to enhance recharge in an area where groundwater levels are lower. Strategically located weirs also have the potential to enhance recharge. The Task Force is considering all alternatives that hold potential,” adds Whittington.
Monitoring and Modeling
The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with MDEQ and other Task Force organizations, has developed a comparative modeling analysis to illustrate how the aquifer would respond to the various suggested alternatives. Ag economists are comparing the costs of various alternatives from a per-unit of water provided or saved perspective, and pilot projects are being conducted to evaluate the feasibility of groundwater injection and its potential to enhanced aquifer recharge.
The largest water reduction pressure on the aquifer is pumpage from the 19,000 wells. A volunteer flow meter installation program for agriculture was initiated by MDEQ. Reports of metered water use for ten percent of the wells in each Delta county were submitted by the Feb. 1, 2016, deadline. To avoid a mandatory metering program, permit holders must continue to submit reports on 10 percent of the wells in each county by Feb. 1 of each year.
“We have received 1,872 water use reports to date. Of those, 60 percent were related to soybeans. Next, was corn, cotton, and finally rice. It’s pretty representative of the Delta’s crop distribution, and that helps because we must have good, reliable data to improve model accuracy — which will also take into account soil types and precipitation,” explains Whittington.
Only one county, Desoto, has met its 10 percent requirement for the February 2017 deadline. Of the 1,666 reports needed, MDEQ has received only 526, which puts them behind from where they were last year. If compliance is not achieved, mandatory metering and interrelated regulations could be implemented — which nobody wants, but was discussed when the Task Force made this agreement.
Efforts from the Task Force are geared toward improving and understanding information related to the inputs for the model, and ultimately recharging of the aquifer.
Collaboration, commitment
“The problem of the aquifer’s decline can only be solved through collaboration and a Delta-wide commitment from agriculture. I encourage all farmers to participate in the Voluntary Flow Meter Installation Program. Current water use levels are not sustainable, but we believe these conservation efforts can make a huge difference in both the environmental and economic sustainability of the Delta,” concludes Whittington.