NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A small breach on the marsh-covered east bank of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans is giving rise to calls to let the river run wild.

The debate centers on a 77-foot-wide channel the river carved through a levee road in the unused Bohemia spillway in Plaquemines Parish, about 45 miles south of New Orleans. The breach is outside levees that protect thinly populated communities on the sliver of delta that extends south to form Louisiana's boot.

Scientists for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a New Orleans-based environmental group, say the new channel formed in February, during Mardi Gras season. They've dubbed it "Mardi Gras Pass."

The scientists are urging that the breach be allowed to remain, saying restorative, land-building silt it is pouring into marshes.