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Muddy Waters

More sediment is entering rivers, but less makes its way to the sea

8:33am, May 18, 2005

About 20 kilometers southwest of New Orleans, one of the U.S. Geological Survey's benchmarks sits atop a concrete column that pokes above the waves about 5 meters from the shore of Couba Island. The small brass disk, one of thousands that the agency has installed throughout the country, serves as a reference point for surveyors and mapmakers. Why did agency personnel place what should be a readily accessible guidepost in the thigh-deep waters of a Louisiana bayou? The answer's easy: They didn't. When the disk was installed in 1932, it sat high and dry in someone's backyard.

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