MORGANZA, LA (WAFB) - Take a drive over the Morganza Spillway and a beautiful, serene scene complete with the white pelicans welcomes you, but behind that scene, is a very critical decision that's still up in the air about the wall holding back all water.
"We have done this before in 2011. This will be the third opening of the spillway, and we are prepared," said Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Bud Torres, who is also the director of the parish's Office of Emergency Preparedness. "I think we're getting close to the threshold where the option of being able to open the spillway is a possibility."
Ricky Boyett with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the decision to open or not depends on two factors. First, the water level needs to hit 57 feet on the actual Morganza Spillway structure.
"That means we would have 57 feet of water against the walls of the structure as well as a forecast that indicates at least 1.5 million cubic feet per second of water that is coming down the river," said Boyett.
Currently, the gauge in the forebay shows the water at just below 40 feet. Near the Potato Levee as it is called, water from the Mississippi River is seen spilling into the forebay and slowly but surely, the water is creeping higher.
"Where we are standing will be underwater. The forebay will flood slowly. We will see that over the next few days. You're probably looking at where we are going underwater roughly into days," said Boyett.
Opening the Morganza Spillway relieves pressure on the levees between Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Boyett said the levees are as good if not better than in 2011 and they do not have any weak spots in any levees, but continue to monitor all levees.
Meanwhile, Don Soulier, who has a hunting camp right in the path of the floodwaters, is hoping they can make do without opening the gates.
"There's nothing we can do with it besides let it go under," said Soulier.
He was only four years old the first time the gates opened in 1973 and remembers that flood. Now, he said he does not want a repeat of 2011.
"We had a fixed structure as in a camp that actually went underwater and we had to tear everything out and then repair it. You just have to rebuild everything," said Soulier.
Torres said the areas in the direct path of the floodwaters in case the Morganza Spillway opens has roughly 100 hunting camps and only three to four actual people who call the area home. He added it is a lot of farmland and agriculture and if the decision is made to open the gates, his deputies would go door-to-door.
Pointe Coupee Parish President Melanie Bueche said other than the camps and those few people, the rest of the parish should fair just fine.
"We're in very good hands, but of course you have to realize that you were fighting with Mother Nature, and she is a very powerful lady," said Bueche.
The rising water could trigger an automatic closure to the hunting season as early as Friday, January 8.