Officials prep for river flooding, public meetings on spillways

Officials prep for river flooding, public meetings on spillways

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Each inch of water that creeps up the banks of the Mississippi River spurs new action from local, state and federal officials.

As of Monday evening, the Mississippi River level at Baton Rouge had reached just above 35 feet, which is technically considered a minor flood stage. It's expected to crest at 44 feet towards the middle or end of January.

"We do expect the river to reach a point at which a flood fight will be underway," explained WAFB chief meteorologist and former Louisiana State Climatologist Jay Grymes.

Already, the state has restricted public access to the river levees. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is asking residents not to walk or drive on the levees both for safety and to make it easier for inspection teams who are now out seven days a week watching for leaks, cracks or other issues.

Over at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness(GOHSEP), the agency is working as a liaison between the myriad of organizations monitoring the rivers, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, and local parishes. Using the 2011 flood as guide, GOHSEP is already putting resources in place where flooding issues are likely to return.

"I think we're ahead of the curb right now," said GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis. "We've got to make sure that we've got everything moving around the state to support the locals in whatever request they have."

Grymes, who also consults with GOHSEP, expects the flooding impact to mimic what happened four years ago.

"The impacts are going to be much the same. There'll be some nervousness, there'll be some heavy patrolling of the levees and for those people who had to live in areas and dealt with sand boils and seepage in 2011, expect a repeat," said Grymes.

Of course the big question is, will officials choose to flood the spillways? The spillways are opened when the river reaches a certain flow rate and keeps rising.

For the Bonnet Carre Spillway, the trigger flow rate is 1.25 million cubic feet per second. For the Morganza Spillway, the trigger flow rate is 1.5 million cubic feet per second.

Officials believe it is highly likely the Bonnet Carre will be opened soon. The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a public meeting Tuesday in New Orleans to discuss the possibility, with a final decision expected by the weekend. If opened, it would be the earliest the spillway has ever had to be used in its 85 years.

A decision on the Morganza Spillway will be made in the coming weeks. As a precaution, landowners in the area have already received a notice that it is a possibility.

The Corps will also hold three public meetings with stake holders this week at the following locations:

  • Wednesday, January 06, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
    911 Communication Center
    7011 Mitchell Lane
    Morganza, LA 70759
  • Thursday, January 07, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    728 Myrtle Street
    Morgan City, LA 70380
  • Thursday, January 07, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
    Butte LaRose Fire Station
    1715 Herman Dupuis Rd
    Breaux Bridge, La.  70517

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