Corps of Engineers to begin opening Spillway floodgates this week

NEW ORLEANS – Workers will begin opening about half of the floodgates at the Bonnet Carré Spillway Thursday morning.

Colonel Mike Clancy District Engineer for the New Orleans District with the Army Corps of Engineers said the move will help lower water levels on the Mississippi River, which has overflowed its banks in several states upriver from Louisiana in the recent weeks.

“Presently, the river, here at the Carrollton Gauge, is just over 14 feet high,” Clancy said at an afternoon press conference. “There’s approximately 1.1 million cubic feet per second flowing in the Mississippi River past New Orleans. In the next few days, we anticipate the river, probably in the next 24 to 36 hours, going up to 15 feet.”

When the river levels reach 15 feet, the Corps prohibits all activity within 1,500 feet of the levees and begins daily inspections to monitor levee stability.

The levee system in New Orleans is designed to accommodate 1.25 million cubic feet of water per second, Clancy said, and when the Mississippi approaches that level, the Spillway is opened.

About half of the Spillway’s 350 floodgates will be opened beginning at 10 a.m. on March 8, and they may stay open for as long as three weeks.

About 10 percent of the river’s water is expected to be diverted through the Spillway and into Lake Pontchartrain, according to Clancy.

“This is the third high river in a row for New Orleans and the New Orleans District,” Clancy said. “But I’m happy to report that we’re in as good a shape as we ever have been.”