2024 CSDMS meeting-068


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=Systemic analysis of the tradeoffs associated with management strategies for natural and built Mississippi River outlets =

Laura Manuel, Tulane University New Orleans Louisiana, United States. lmanuel2@tulane.edu
Ehab Meselhe, Tulane University New Orleans Louisiana, United States.
Kelin Hu, Tulane University New Orleans Louisiana, United States.

The lower Mississippi River drains a watershed of over 3.2 million square kilometers. The continental flux of water, sediment, and nutrients passes through the state of Louisiana in the last stretch of its journey to the Gulf of Mexico. A portion of the river detours, pronounced during high flow events, to the gulf through a series of natural and manmade diversions. Systemic understanding of the Mississippi River sediment and water resources partitioning among various outlets or diversions is crucial to the sustained function of the Northern Gulf of Mexico’s communities, habitats, and industries. This study discusses the development and application of a Delft3D FM 3-dimensional hydrodynamic, salinity, and temperature model of the Northern Gulf of Mexico. We used this model to analyze and quantify the tradeoffs among various management scenarios for freshwater allocation in the lower Mississippi River through existing and proposed infrastructure and natural openings. We also explored the possibility of varying the operational strategies of existing structures to investigate the changes in service and protection to communities in the receiving basins. To maximize the benefits of the Mississippi River’s water, sediment, and nutrients, this study emphasizes the continued analysis of management scenarios as an important step in the preservation and protection of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico while sustaining the support of relevant industries. We synthesized scoring metrics to facilitate communication of the efficacy of various management scenarios. The scoring metrics provide an evaluation framework covering physical, ecological and indirect socioeconomic criteria. This approach can be used for other complex natural systems to explore viable strategies and tradeoffs balancing ecosystem services with socioeconomic interests.