Morganza Spillway Will Not Be Opened After All
Forecasting the flow of a river is a lot like forecasting the weather, it changes minute by minute and hour by hour. The Army Corps of Engineers had been contemplating opening some of the gates on the Morganza Spillway to help regulate high water and water flow of the Mississippi River. Opening the gates of the spillway could mean high water in and along the Atchafalaya River and the Atchafalaya Basin.
In human terms, opening the spillway means lower water levels in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. That also means higher water through the Atachafalaya Basin. The water has to go somewhere. It's the Corps mission to decide what's the best way to disperse the excess water and affect the least amount of people.
Monday afternoon after monitoring the flow of the river, the current water levels, and the predicted crest of the river, officials with the Corps decided that opening the Morganza Spillway might not be necessary after all.
We are going to hit the 57 feet, however, we aren’t seeing a forecast of 1.5 million cubic feet per second.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Ricky Boyett told the Louisiana Radio Network that one of the triggers for opening the spillway, a level of 57 feet, had been met. The Corps uses several "triggers" as criteria for opening the bays of the spillway structure. Water level and water flow are two of those triggers.
This doesn't mean the threat of high water and flooding is now over for interest along the Atchafalaya Basin.
You’re looking at water elevations that are just slightly below what he saw in 2011, even without the operation of the Morganza. So, it is something that the people in the Basin need to be aware of, be prepared.
Further down river the Army Corps of Engineers opened several of the bays on the Bonnet Carre Spillway just outside of New Orleans. Thirty-eight spillway bays have been opened so far and more might be opened in the coming days.
We just don’t want the water to exceed 1.25 million, so we evaluate the actual data every day and that determines how many bays we need to open.
So it's still a wait and see situation as officials monitor the flow of water and the water levels. The predicted crest of the Mississippi at Baton Rouge is 61 feet on January 18. That would put the river 13 feet above flood stage.