Timeline for opening Morganza Spillway changes with updated forecast

Timeline for opening Morganza Spillway changes with updated forecast
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BUTTE LA ROSE, LA (WAFB) - A change in the river forecast has altered plans for the Morganza Spillway. The new timeline released Thursday has the floodgates opening no sooner than Tuesday, January 12, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The National Weather Service (NWS) revised their forecast actually downward on the Mississippi side by about a half a foot," said Mike Stack, Chief of Emergency Management for the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers. "As the forecast has gone down, now that opening would be reduced to a small amount of bays for less time."

As of Thursday night, the Army Corps had still not yet officially announced whether they will be operating the spillway.

On Wednesday, the Army Corps said the spillway could be opened on January 11. That plan was scrapped when a new forecast from the NWS said the trigger factors for opening the gates would not be reached until a day later on Tuesday.

In order to open the Morganza Spillway, water must reach a height of 57 feet and flow at a rate of 1.5 million cubic feet per second.

With the change in the forecast, the Army Corps said they will cut back on the extent of their operations. On Wednesday, the plan was to open 14 bays for about 10 days. With the new forecast, that estimate has been cut back.

"There's less water we have to divert out of the river and it's going to be here a little bit later," Stack said.

The new forecast also brings good news for Butte LaRose, where the Corps held the last of three public meetings about Morganza Thursday. Butte LaRose lies in the path of the spillway.

Originally, the river was set to crest at 23.5 feet in Butte LaRose. That is higher than the 23.1 feet crest of 2011. With the revised and updated forecast, the crest estimate is now set at 22.5 feet, which is still in flood stage.

While some community members are concerned, many said they did not experience extreme flooding in 2011 and are prepared for whatever this water may bring.

"There was kind of a scare in 2011 and a lot of people did move their homes because of predicted higher waters and now that's just anybody's gamble," said Butte LaRose resident Jeremy Prejean. "We know that coming out here, we're in a flood zone for one and we're in the basin, the spillway."

The Army Corps said that regardless of whether they open the spillway or not, the water will still crest at 22.5 feet in Butte LaRose. It will simply stay at that level longer if the spillway is indeed operational.

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