Barataria on the Move

A vision for a prosperous and growing Mississippi River Delta

Columbia University, GSAPP, Urban Design Studio III, Summer 2021
Collaborators: Zuzanna Jarzynska, Aruna Ananta Das, Cheng Ju Lee
Advisors: Kate Orff, Geeta Mehta, Dilip Da Cunha, Adriana Chavez, Justine Holzman, Tori Vuono

Barataria on the Move is a design initiative that makes local communities strategic working partners in the Mid-Baratari Sediment Diversion project. The project aims to reinvigorate the over-salinated wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta that are currently separated from the fresh water and sediment supply by levees.

We put forward 3 ‘units of change’ anchored in Myrtle Grove Hub as a gateway connecting leveed areas and the Barataria Basin: strategic willow planting to encourage and reinforce land-forming processes; a wetland literacy initiative to build
data systems, wetland constituencies and local resilience; floating oyster hatcheries to ensure higher mobility of loca fishermen in conditions of shifting water salinity.

The three units work systemically and symbiotically. Together, they help local communities retain ownership and a stron working presence in the basin both, during the land-building process and after its completion. It is a replicable, robust,
research-driven and adaptive model of living and working synergistically with the wetlands

Anticipating the Sediment Diversion

Land Loss map in Southern Lousiana

Land Loss Map

Effect of the Sediment Diversion

Unit 1: Land Building Strategy

The environmental change caused by the opening of the sediment diversion will start with a radical increase in fresh water level and continue with sediment deposition and accumulation. The progression of the land formation process can be accelerated with the use of sediment retention structures, complemented by willow planting. Their location will be guided by land formation and salinity data analysis outcomes. Both the sediment retention structures and willows will capture sediment and create sustainable and natural barricades against sea level rise and storm surge. The products of these planting strategies serve as potential sources of energy; woody biomass can be farmed and processed regionally and on a smaller scale by individual land owners. In this way, the areas that once benefited from a brackish and saltwater
economy, such as fishing and farming, can remain productive.


Unit 2: Wetland Literacy Initiative

With the land formation processes underway, research and educational facilities will be needed to repeatedly assess the changes as part of the adaptive management process. This sector will not only provide new, specialized green jobs, such as field researchers and wetland navigators. It will also attract nature enthusiasts and students seeking for unique handson experiences, enforce wetland literacy among visitors and residents and highlight the unquestionable value of this area to the whole delta and all its inhabitants.

Unit 3: Mobile Oyster Culture

With changing salinity gradient, the static reef oyster culture will have to be reinvented. With the Co-op model, floating cages and consolidated leases, Oyster people will be able to move their beds around regardless of the current boundaries. These beds are then supported by nodes which are shared mobile hatcheries. This distributed system will provide oyster seeds more efficiently than the current state-owned seeding grounds. Harvests are then aggregated on the same facility and get transported on a shared boat to a processing center located at the hub.


Myrtle Groove Hub

Core to the oystermen cooperative is the wetland hub, which acts as an anchor to the three dynamically shifting systems and a gateway connecting wetlands to the leveed areas. It comprises three main components: an industrial section, a retail section, and a research section. The industrial module will house a boat library, processing centers for willow farming and oyster farming, and serve as a boat
entry point. The retail module will cater to both the local communities and visitors, and create an active destination for residents of the towns situated along the Mississippi River levee. Lastly, the research and education module is dedicated to monitoring ecological changes, reinforcing adaptive management strategies and supporting the other systems with necessary data.