Louisiana and national environmental groups have recommended that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which critics say funneled Hurricane Katrina's surging water towards the New Orleans area, be closed.

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In recommendations released Dec. 5, the groups say the 76-mile-long outlet, known as Mister Go, "was a bad idea when constructed and has become a worse one every year." The report, written by former and current Louisiana State University professors and representatives of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, contends that MRGO has harmed 618,000 acres in the area, either through lost wetlands or destroyed cypress swamps.

Paul Harrison, coastal Louisiana project manager for Environmental Defense, says, "MRGO remains an enormous physical danger for New Orleans, has degraded its environment and cost the American taxpayer as much as $45 million each year to maintain, yet it is used by fewer than 10 ships a day."

In an appropriations bill enacted in June, Congress instructed the Corps to produce an interim report by Dec. 15 outlining a plan to deauthorize MRGO for deep-draft navigation. The measure provides $3.3 million to develop the report. The Corps currently has the report under review, says Dave Hewitt, a spokesman.

The environmental groups' recommendations include deauthorizing MRGO as a federal navigation channel and ending maintenance dredging. They also want the Corps to restore a natural ridge at Bayou la Loutre or cut or narrow the channel with natural fills at four or more locations, which would turn the waterway into a series of lakes. The organizations contend that those lakes would be more likely to fill with sediment during future storms.

The report also was endorsed by Environmental Defense, the National Wildlife Federation and American Rivers, among others.