An LSU AgCenter researcher recently received a $100,000 grant from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources pending final approval from the state contracting office to provide a series of water project evaluations and management plans regarding the Atchafalaya Floodway System. 

Michael Kaller, an assistant professor in the AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, said the grant will cover a three-year period and examine water management construction projects and their effects on the floodway system. A portion of the grant also will be used to supplement the studies of a graduate student.

“We are looking at two key benchmarks when we evaluate projects and plans. We want to see an increase in dissolved oxygen and improvement in fish habitat,” Kaller said. The primary component regarding fish habitat will be whether an area has increased to a depth of about 6.5 feet or more, which leads to enhanced sustainability of fisheries in the system.

According to Kaller, an overall goal in managing the system should be to keep it from filling in and to maintain three habitat zones throughout the system. The habitat zones are a full-flood (wet) area, flowing channels and bayous, and swamp areas that experience both wet and dry cycles.

A wealth of data and an extensive database are available on the Atchafalaya system. This makes it easier to document the effects of management projects within the system.

“I can’t imagine a more dynamic ecosystem in the United States to study. It plays such an important economic role both commercially and from a recreational standpoint.”

The grant will fund four projects within the floodway system. The first project is an area called the “Dog Leg” located in the East Grand Lake Water Management Unit in Iberia and St. Mary parishes.

Increasing the flow of water through the system, both in terms of velocity and duration, is beneficial throughout the system, Kaller said. “We can move a lot of sediment due to the fact that the bottom throughout the Atchafalaya is very soft, and we can get that sediment to the coast where it is needed.”