Coastal land loss in the Mississippi River delta region, related to degradation of wetlands and erosion of barrier islands, contributes to loss of valuable habitat, endangerment of infrastructure and socioeconomic systems, and coastal flooding hazards. Restoration of these ecosystems is thus a primary activity that requires large volumes of sand to rebuild beach–dune systems and restore wetland habitats. Sand sources have traditionally been sought offshore in the marine environment, but there are problems associated with setbacks from oil and gas infrastructure, presence of muddy overburden, and limited reserves of beach-quality sediments. Fluvial sand sources in channel and point-bar deposits become an attractive alternative for barrier island restoration because of large volumes of relict deposits and because active sand waves are renewable. Results of preliminary geophysical and geotechnical investigations in the lower Mississippi River (south of New Orleans) along a 32-km stretch of the river indicate the presence of at least 23 million cubic meters of usable sediments in seven potential borrow sites. Caveats to assessment and exploitation of river sands include interpretation of vibracores and seismic reflection profiles that include evidence of lateral translation-type bank failures along bendways, lateral slumps, and postdepositional disturbance of strata above −30 m. Reliable extraction of good quality sediment should occur down current from bendways.
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Vol. 2006 • No. 224