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Morganza Spillway will be opened next week

Governor John Bel Edwards says he will ask the White House for an emergency declaration to help...
Governor John Bel Edwards says he will ask the White House for an emergency declaration to help manage the state?s ongoing problems with a rising Mississippi River. It?s likely the Army Corps of Engineers will open the Morganza Spillway next month.
Updated: May. 27, 2019 at 8:16 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A rare opening of the Morganza Spillway is scheduled for Sunday (June 2), according to the Army Corps of Engineers, who said it’s necessary to prevent the flood structure from over topping.

Corps member Ricky Boyett said the current flood fight is historic and unprecedented. Already, this year has marked the first year the Bonnet Carre has been opened in back-to-back seasons and the first time ever it had to be open twice in one year.

“This year it seems like the river is much like a hurricane. Every river event is a little bit different. This year has been unprecedented," Boyett said, referencing the Bonne Carre Spillway’s two openings. “Now you’re looking at the third needed operation of Morganza.”

Sunday will mark only the third time in its history the Morganza Spillway has been opened -- first in 1973 and then in 2011. Boyette said the Corps believe this opening will surpass the 1973 event as the longest flood fight.

“This has been the wettest year on record. So, they’ve been keeping records for about 124 years and this is the most rain we have seen in the continental United States. The challenge that we have is that the high water extends beyond what the forecasting timeline does so, we don’t know how long it’s going to be," Boyett said. “We don’t know how much rain is going to occur in the Mississippi Valley, the Arkansas River Valleys, the Missouri River Valleys. But, what we will do is remain vigilant.”

Chip Kline with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said they’re concerned about farmers along the Atchafalaya River and Atchafalaya Basin.

“Probably crawfish farmers and farmers who actually have crops in place with that inundation of water [will be impacted.] Massive amounts of croplands are going to be lost. Crawfish season will probably be shorter than most South Louisianans would hope,” Kline said.

The Corps is urging neighbors, landowners and businesses in the Morganza floodway to pay close attention to advice from their local officials and to take necessary flooding precautions. When the Morganza was opened 2011, the area was in a drought, but that’s not the case now.

“One of the factors we definitely want to get out so people are aware is, don’t necessarily count on what happened in 2011 in the basin as to be what would happen in 2019," Boyett cautioned. “We are not in a drought. We don’t see that the water would be absorbed as it did in 2011. So, you have to be aware that there is the potential for high water levels.”

The Spillway will be opened gradually to minimize impacts to wildlife. Boyett said the Corps doesn’t know how long it will be opened but it could be 20 days or longer.

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