News and Events at the ESL

LSU’s Earth Scan Laboratory Develops Bird’s-Eye View of Lake Pontchartrain Sedim

GCOOS Partner’s Work Helps to Support Environmental Sampling Strategies Following Mississippi River Flooding

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When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway on Jan. 10, it was the earliest in a calendar year the Spillway had ever been opened. Located southwest of Lake Pontchartrain, the Bonnet Carré is designed to divert water from the Mississippi River through the Lake and out into the Gulf of Mexico to keep New Orleans from flooding.

Forty-one percent of the continental U.S. drains to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River and the heavy rains and flooding in the Midwest in December caused by the current El Niño Event and possible effects of climate change necessitated the Spillway’s early opening to protect New Orleans.

When the Army Corps opened the Spillway — just the 11th time ever in the Bonnet Carré’s 85-year history — Dr. Nan Walker, Director of the Earth Scan Laboratory (ESL) at Louisiana State University and a principal investigator for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS), was watching.

The Earth Scan Laboratory, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, captures satellite data from the entire Gulf of Mexico (along with most of the Western Atlantic, the extreme Eastern Pacific and the land mass from Hudson Bay to northern-most South America) to create a record of environmental information for education, research, economic and forensic applications.

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Published: March 01, 2016

The bad with the good?

Opening Bonnet Carre Spillway eases flooding but also has both good and bad impacts on Lake Pontchartrain

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Earth Scan Lab's imagery are included in this piece by The New Orleans Advocate.

A plume of sediment-laden river water is slowly spreading along the southern reaches of Lake Pontchartrain and working its way toward the Gulf of Mexico as the Bonnet Carre Spillway throws 186,000 cubic feet per second of fresh river water into the salty lake.

The potential effects of the continuing operation of the spillway, which relieves flooding pressure downriver, are a mixed bag.

In addition to sediment, the colder and fresher river water also carries nutrients from upriver agricultural practices, carries the possibility of invasive species and has at least the temporary effect of moving out certain species of fish that want more-brackish water.

At the same time, the additional nutrients can provide a base for better growth of other species, the cold water may mean the impact on oysters will be lessened and nutrient blooms apparent in previous spillway operations may be delayed, if they happen at all. 


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Published: March 01, 2016