A physical model of the lower Mississippi is being used to predict the success of sediment diversion on coastal erosion control
The Louisiana State University’s Center for River Studies has built the Lower Mississippi River Physical Model, a 10,000 sq ft reproduction of the 200 miles of the lower Mississippi River. Researchers plan to use the model to study how sediment from the Mississippi can be used for coastal erosion control. Louisiana has developed a plan to create diversions along the Mississippi that naturally allows river sediment to replenish wetlands along the coast and the researchers hope to use the model to assess the effectiveness of this plan at erosion control.
“Not only can we model the flows and the water stages of the water levels in the Mississippi River,” Clint Willson, head of the Center for River Studies said. “We can also model or simulate the transport or the movement of the Mississippi River sand down the river, and we can do all that in roughly one hour to replicate on year on the river.”
Made of high density foam panels, the model was created by inserting data regarding dimensions, shape and surrounding topography of the river into a database, which was then used to cut the panels. 6,000 gal of water is used on the model and tiny particles of plastic injected into the water mimic the sediment flowing through the real Mississippi, according to NBC Bay Area. The researchers can even raise the water level to simulate rising tides and monitor erosion control.
“An image like this model tells the story in a way that is way more powerful than a slideshow, than a numerical modeling,” Justin R. Ehrenwerth of the Water Institute of the Gulf said.