NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Rain up north across the upper Mississippi and the traditional Springtime rise has caused the Corps of Engineers to initiate what they call Phase 1 Flood Fight.  Sounds pretty strong, but it’s actually their means of making sure the river protection is doing its job.

“The trigger for us to go into Phase I Flood Flight is when the river at the Carrollton Gauge reaches a height of 11 feet. When it’s at 11 feet, the Mississippi River has left its natural banks, and we begin phase one. We’re out twice a week, inspecting the levees and working closely with our partners at the local levee boards,” Matt Roe, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told WGNO’s LBJ.

The phase is a precaution to ensure that local authorities are able to respond quickly to issues on the levee related to elevated water levels.

On Thursday, those levels reached the 11-foot level mark and continued to rise. The Corps forecasts those levels to his 12.1 feet on March 21 before it starts to fall.

In addition to levee inspection, officials have put a red light on certain work categories along the water. All work that could impact the levee, such as transporting heavy loads, disrupting the grass cover, or subsurface work within 1,500 feet is prohibited.

“Anybody working within 1500 feet of the levees has to get a waiver or permit from the local levee board. That work may continue on a case-by-case basis with a waiver, but any subsurface construction activity within 1500 feet of the levees does have to stop, once we’re at that phase one,” said Matt Roe.

One of the biggest tools in the Corps toolbox for keeping the river safe is the opening of the Bonne Carre Spillway. It hasn’t happened in a few years and Roe said that we’re not at that point yet.

“The trigger point of that is a flow rate of 1.25 million cubic feet per second which is about 17 feet on the gauge, and we’re just getting close to 11 so it’s a little early to say whether that will be needed this year or not,” said Matt Roe.

Roe also said that if you live near or frequent the levees for exercising or biking, the Corps could use a hand.  In other words, if you see something out of the ordinary like excessive leakage or a damaged levee, say something. You can call the corps at 504-862-1102.

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