New restoration ideas goal of design contest

Jan 31st, 2014 | By | Category: News

Eight teams of engineers and scientists from around the world recently gathered in New Orleans to discuss the Mississippi River— specifically from English Turn to Head of Passes. They are competitors in Changing Course, a private sector design challenge.

Its goal is to explore new approaches to utilize the river’s water and sediment in coastal restoration projects, while continuing to meet the needs of established coastal industries and communities.

These teams, after speaking to panels of scientific experts and local stakeholder representatives, will now start the design process. For the next four- to five-month period, teams will start drawing up plans.

Changing Course

Despite its name, Changing Course is not about changing the course of the Mississippi, says members of its technical and stakeholders teams.

“It’s a design competition,” said Spencer Murphy. “It’s designed to attract teams of engineers, scientists and whoever else they think needs to be involved in their efforts to think about the very bottom part of the Mississippi River over the next 50 to 100 years.”

Murphy, the Vice President of Risk Management at Canal Barge Company, Inc., represents stakeholders, particularly those with navigational interests on the Mississippi.

“Are there any changes that could be made that would preserve the commerce that is currently on the river, preserve the communities that are all living along the river, all the fisheries, all the industry, but also use the river if possible, and where it makes sense to help with coastal restoration efforts at the same time?” explained Murphy.

Clinton Willson is the Chair of Changing Course’s Technical Team; he is a Professor of LSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Engineering Design and Innovation Program at The Water Institute of the Gulf.

“The idea of a design competition is really to bring together experts,” said Wilson, “that range in expertise from the river, navigation, community, industry, wetland, ecology, wetland resources, etc., and really to provide an opportunity for some smart people to bring some innovative ideas to thinking about what can [the Mississippi River] be?”

It is too early in the design phase for any project details.

“Nothing is off the table, but nothing is specifically on the table either for any of these teams as they do their work,” said Murphy.

Organizers hope that the selected design or designs will be included in the 2017 draft of Louisiana’s Master Plan.

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