[Image: 3d-printing new deltas into existence, courtesy of New Scientist].
If we could divert certain segments of the Lower Mississippi River into subsidiary canals, we’d “create up to 1000 square kilometres of new wetlands between New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, forming a vital storm surge buffer against hurricanes,” New Scientist reports.
It’s prosthetic deltas as the future of landscape design:
The proposed diversion would cut breaches into a levee some 150 km south of New Orleans, Louisiana, and 30 km above where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. With the diversions in place, flooding would cause the river to empty into shallow saltwater bays on either side of the river, releasing sediment-rich water to produce new deltas.
As Robert Twilley of Louisiana State University phrases it: “You keep the sediment within the coastal boundary current that keeps it running along the shoreline, whereas now it gets ejected into the Gulf.” This thus constructs “new delta land” instead of uselessly shooting all that sediment over the continental shelf – and that newly aggregated land, like a literal land bank, will help protect New Orleans and its surrounding parishes from future hurricane damage.
[Image: Courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation].
But I’m left wondering if this might not also imply some new form of 3D printing, using river sediments as ink and machine-controlled deltas as printheads: you open certain valves, gates, and locks according to predetermined schedules, in some massive inhabitable printhead complex run by the local flood control board, and you can print deltaic land into existence, at will, moving peninsulas here and there, forming islands, atolls, archipelagos, all through the directed sediments of the Mississippi River… It’d be a kind of horizontal spray-gun, bringing terra nova into existence.
For what it’s worth, meanwhile, my wife and I have co-authored a chapter in a forthcoming book called What Is A City?, published by the University of Georgia Press, in which we talk at great length about these sorts of post-Katrina hydrological projects – including the use of genetically-modified marshgrasses to anchor artificially dredged fill, in a more or less complete deterrestrialization of the earth’s surface. Or, to use a bad pun, you could say that these projects are literally outlandish.
Finally, don’t miss the show up now at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Birdfoot: Where America’s River Dissolves Into The Sea.
The end of the Mississippi River Delta – the Birdfoot – is a national landscape of disintegration, a fractal labyrinth of dendritic channels, a blend of water and earth, bisected and rerouted by linear, engineered forms of pipeline canals and levees. The people who live and work here, beyond the reach of roads, do so tenuously, in a delicate, disappearing place that is battered by hurricanes, and eroding into the sea.
The closing date for the exhibition is not available.