Today, the river carries up to 80 percent less sediment than it did a century ago.
Dams, reduction in land clearing and tilling, and implementation of conservation measures that reduce erosion upriver are the major causes of the reduction. Thus, even if all of the levees along the Mississippi River were removed today, the marshes would still receive significantly less sediment than they did in the 1800s.
Still, some sediment does move into coastal marshes during hurricanes and winter cold fronts when winds driven waves stir mud on the bottom of shallow bays. The volume of the sediment, however, is usually inadequate to counter the effects of subsidence. The existence of levees, canal banks, roadbeds, railroad embankments and changes upriver all contribute to the problem of inadequate sediment distribution in our coastal marshes.