Mississippi River Basin

Isle de Jean Charles

In Louisiana, Rising Seas Threaten Native Americans’ Land by PBS NewsHour, 2012 (9:06).

Vanishing Island by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, 2014 (9:03).

NWNL Comment: Isle de Jean Charles is disappearing into Terrebonne Bay. Subsidence is one of the factors shrinking and flooding the island and its 1-mile causeway. This is because:

– sediment flow, that formerly replenished land in the bay, is now stopped by upstream dams on the Mississippi River;

– the river has been channelized so there’s no natural erosion of river banks;

– upstream farmers’ topsoil mostly stays in the fields now due to new agricultural “better practices”;

– canals built by oil and gas companies have changed the hydrology of coastal Louisiana.

Other factors threatening the existence of this island include rising sea levels due to climate change and possible underground/underwater shifts due to removal of oil and gas reserves.

The island, formerly 5 miles wide and 11 miles long with 300 homes, is now just 1/4 mile wide and 2 miles long with only 25 homes. The Native Americans remaining on the island can no longer rely on their self-sustaining culture of raising pigs and cattle, fishing, hunting and farming. The soil is too saline for gardening, the trees have died, there’s no land for livestock, and fisheries are dwindling due to increased salinity, pollution and the BP oil spill.

Both these videos have been recommended by the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper and LEAN (Louisiana Environmental Action Network). These are two of the many stewardship organizations interviewed by NWNL before and after visiting Isle de Jean Charles during our month-long Lower Mississippi River Basin Expedition in September 2014.