Corps Does Not Expect to Open Bonnet Carré or Morganza Spillways This Year

A barge that was intentionally sunk as a barrier to potential flooding is seen in Bayou Chene near Morgan City, La., in the Atchafalaya Basin in this June 10, 2011, file photo. (Gerald Herbert | AP)

BATON ROUGE – While officials are monitoring flood conditions along the Mississippi River, the water levels are not expected to rival last year’s record-setting flood fight.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not expect to open the Bonnet Carré or Morganza spillways this year, Col. Stephen Murphy told the Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority board Wednesday. The Mississippi River is expected to crest in early March, he said.

The Corps opened the Bonnet Carré twice last year and is currently facing multiple lawsuits claiming harm to the environment caused by the influx of river water. While Murphy did not discuss details of the lawsuits, he said the Corps is trying to improve its communication with communities that could be affected by future spillway operations.

“I would just ask the Corps to continue to look for ways in which you can manage that river differently,” said Chip Kline, CPRA’s chairman.

Kline mentioned Congress was considering new guidelines. Murphy said the operation of the Bonnet Carré spillway has attracted attention at the highest levels of the Corps.

“We are looking very hard at the system,” Murphy said. “Not just Bonnet Carré, not just Morganza, but the entire system up and down the river.”

Mark Wingate with the Corps said $85 million currently is in the agency’s budget for deepening the Mississippi River. Deepening the river to 50 feet from the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge is expected to cost about $250 million in total and take several years, he said.

He said the Corps is working with CPRA and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to find beneficial uses for sediment produced by dredging in coastal protection projects. He said state dredging projects potentially could be considered in-kind contributions that reduce the state’s cost share for the river deepening.

 

By David Jacobs of the Center Square

 

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