Report from Louisiana: Opening the Morganza Spillway

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Report from Louisiana: Opening the Morganza Spillway

By: Pat Austin

ARNAUDVILLE LA – As prepa­ra­tions are made to open the Mor­ganza Spill­way this week to relieve flood­ing on the Mis­sis­sippi River, res­i­dents on Hen­der­son Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin were cau­tiously opti­mistic that inun­da­tion would not be as cat­a­strophic as first feared.

The water level here on the lake has actu­ally gone down a
lit­tle this week,” said one store owner at Basin Land­ing. “We don’t think it will hit us too bad.”

Res­i­dents at the nearby com­mu­nity of Butte La Rose are con­cerned
but not exces­sively so. The last time the Mor­ganza Spill­way was opened was in
2011 and so res­i­dents know pretty much what to expect.

Life along the swamp was busi­ness as usual when we were
there Sat­ur­day. At Hen­der­son Lake there was a birth­day party in progress at one
of the house­boats, and at Tur­tles Bar busi­ness was steady. Nobody was really
talk­ing about the flood too much. At least four large air­boats filled with
tourists took off into the swamp.

As dev­as­tat­ing as any flood is, con­sen­sus around here seems
to be that the levee break in Arkansas last week may have eased the water
lev­els in the Mis­sis­sippi just enough to take away some of the worry for the Atchafalaya.

The
Daily Adver­tiser out of Lafayette
gives the background:

The Mor­ganza Spill­way was designed after the Great Flood of 1927 to draw water off the Mis­sis­sippi River north of Baton Rouge to keep the river from flood­ing downstream.

This year, as the river remained steady at flood stage in Baton Rouge for a record-​setting five months, the Corps of Engi­neers announced plans to open the Mor­ganza Spill­way and relieve the pres­sure on the lev­ees down­stream from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

The Atchafalaya River, which will meet with water from the spill­way about 7 miles upstream of Butte La Rose, has been within 2 feet of flood stage in the small com­mu­nity since the start of March. At just under 20 feet of water, it is now nearly twice as high as this time last year.

The Corps of Engi­neers is expect­ing water from the flood will reach Butte La Rose after four or five days and the Atchafalaya River will rise 2.5 feet there, which would keep the river below the 23-​foot mark seen dur­ing the flood­ing of 2011.

Butte La Rose and Hen­der­son swamp are at the north­ern end of
the expected flood area once the spill­way is opened; fur­ther south con­cerns are
much more evi­dent as the water will flow south toward the Gulf of Mex­ico.
Entire com­mu­ni­ties stand in the way and there will be a def­i­nite loss of crops.

Res­i­dents down in south Louisiana have vary­ing lev­els of
con­cern about the spill­way open­ing but every­one is con­cerned about the lev­ees
along the Mis­sis­sippi because the river has been above flood stage for over
four months and really, how long can the lev­ees be expected to stand up? That is the true test every­one is wor­ry­ing
about.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cam­mie Henry and her Cir­cle at Mel­rose Plan­ta­tion. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25 and Twit­ter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin 

ARNAUDVILLE LA —  As preparations are made to open the Morganza Spillway this week to relieve flooding on the Mississippi River, residents on Henderson Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin were cautiously optimistic that inundation would not be as catastrophic as first feared.

“The water level here on the lake has actually gone down a little this week,” said one store owner at Basin Landing.  “We don’t think it will hit us too bad.”

Residents at the nearby community of Butte La Rose are concerned but not excessively so. The last time the Morganza Spillway was opened was in 2011 and so residents know pretty much what to expect. 

Life along the swamp was business as usual when we were there Saturday. At Henderson Lake there was a birthday party in progress at one of the houseboats, and at Turtles Bar business was steady. Nobody was really talking about the flood too much. At least four large airboats filled with tourists took off into the swamp.

As devastating as any flood is, consensus around here seems to be that the levee break in Arkansas last week may have eased the water levels in the Mississippi just enough to take away some of the worry for the Atchafalaya.

The Daily Advertiser out of Lafayette gives the background:

The Morganza Spillway was designed after the Great Flood of 1927 to draw water off the Mississippi River north of Baton Rouge to keep the river from flooding downstream.

This year, as the river remained steady at flood stage in Baton Rouge for a record-setting five months, the Corps of Engineers announced plans to open the Morganza Spillway and relieve the pressure on the levees downstream from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

The Atchafalaya River, which will meet with water from the spillway about 7 miles upstream of Butte La Rose, has been within 2 feet of flood stage in the small community since the start of March. At just under 20 feet of water, it is now nearly twice as high as this time last year.

The Corps of Engineers is expecting water from the flood will reach Butte La Rose after four or five days and the Atchafalaya River will rise 2.5 feet there, which would keep the river below the 23-foot mark seen during the flooding of 2011.

Butte La Rose and Henderson swamp are at the northern end of the expected flood area once the spillway is opened; further south concerns are much more evident as the water will flow south toward the Gulf of Mexico. Entire communities stand in the way and there will be a definite loss of crops.

Residents down in south Louisiana have varying levels of concern about the spillway opening but everyone is concerned about the levees along the Mississippi because the river has been above flood stage for over four months and really, how long can the levees be expected to stand up?  That is the true test everyone is worrying about.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.