An oyster farmer by the name of Cubit had no grand designs when, in 1862, he dug a ditch into the east bank of the Mississippi River; he simply wanted a shortcut for his skiff. But his cut in the lower river delta at Pilottown, about 15 miles below Venice, unleashed the land-building power of the muddy Mississippi.
It poured through, widening the ditch into a broad canal that allowed enough river sediment through to create more than 75 square miles of coastal wetland in less than a century. On Tuesday (Aug. 22), marine scientist Alex Kolker tried stabbing a sediment borer into this young land, now a part of Delta National Wildlife Refuge, to see how it’s holding up. The blade landed with a thud rather than the squish he expected.
"This land here is so strong," he said. With some added muscle from a colleague, the tool was pushed deep enough to extract a cylinder of soil. It was dense, dark and fertile — the foundation of a healthy marsh. For Kolker, who works for Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, the accident known as Cubit’s Gap hints at what two planned sediment diversion projects could […]