Pipe dream, or a possibility? Water experts debate 1,500-mile aqueduct from Cajun Country to Lake Powell

“New Orleans has a problem with that much water anyway, so let’s divert 250,000 gallons/second to Lake Powell, which currently has a shortage of 5.5 trillion gallons. /YouTube

A retired engineer wrote a letter to The Desert Sun of the USA TODAY Network with an idea to solve the West’s water woes: Build a pipeline to refill the Colorado River system with water from the Mississippi River. Would it work? Is it feasible?

By Janet Wilson | Palm Springs Desert Sun

Two hundred miles north of New Orleans, in the heart of swampy Cajun Country, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1963 cut a rogue arm of the Mississippi River in half with giant levees to keep the main river intact and flowing to the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Old River Control Structure, as it was dubbed, is also the linchpin of massive but delicate locks and pulsed flows that feed the largest bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands in the United States, outstripping Florida’s better known Okefenokee Swamp. 

Clouds of birds – hundreds of species – live in or travel through Louisiana’s rich Atchafalaya forests each year, said National Audubon Society Delta Conservation Director Erik Johnson. They include gawky pink roseate spoonbills, tiny bright yellow warblers, known as swamp candles because of their bright glow in the humid, green woods, and more. 

This summer, as seven states and Mexico push to meet a Tuesday deadline to agree on plans to shore up the Colorado River and its shriveling reservoirs, retired engineer Don Siefkes of San Leandro, California, wrote a letter to The Desert Sun of the USA TODAY Network with what he said was a solution to the West’s water woes: Build an aqueduct from the Old River Control Structure to Lake Powell, 1,489 miles west, to refill the Colorado River system with Mississippi River water. 

Downstream of a Mississippi River control point in Louisiana’s Cajun Country, bottomland hardwood forests are home to a richly diverse array of plants and animals that depend on regular water flows.

“Citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi south of the Old River Control Structure don’t need all that water. All it does is cause flooding and massive tax expenditures to repair and strengthen dikes,” wrote Siefkes. “New Orleans has a problem with that much water anyway, so let’s divert 250,000 gallons/second to Lake Powell, which currently has a shortage of 5.5 trillion gallons.

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