Hunters prepare for possible opening of the Morganza Spillway

Hunters prepare for possible opening of the Morganza Spillway
Source: Kevin Frey/WAFB
Source: Kevin Frey/WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Hunters in the Morganza Spillway are preparing for the possible flooding that would occur if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the spillway structure operational.

One of those hunters is Harlan Cashiola. Back in 2011, his entire hunting lodge was left under more than 10 feet of water after the Army Corps opened the gates.

"It was just a total loss ... I say a total loss, we came in and did the whole camp again from the inside out," Cashiola said.

His property is nestled in the middle of the floodplain. It has been in his family for decades. As a child, he learned to hunt there.

Even if they do not open the floodways, this time he is bringing in a construction team. Using hydraulic lifts, they will hoist the lodge at least 10 feet in the air, effectively creating a second story that is hopefully out of the way of any floodwater.

"This year, we're not going to take a chance. We're going to go ahead and jack it up and leave it," he said.

As of Saturday afternoon, the Army Corps had still not made a decision about the Morganza Spillway. As it currently stands, it will not open before at least Wednesday, according to spokesman Ricky Boyett. That is when, Boyett said, the two trigger factors required for opening the gates may fall into place.

Still, even with the Mroganza Spillway closed, water is already rising in the camps. A pond near Cashiola's property is already at least 2 feet higher than before. The excess water is backwater from the flooding Atchafalaya that is slowly seeping its way into the hunting grounds.

The potential risk of flooding is not keeping some hunters away.

Rhett Seidenglanz and his friends plan on continuing to look for deer until the last minute possible.

"We're about to go out on our evening hunt right now and we're not going to stop until the wildlife and fisheries tells us we got to quit," he said.

The U.S. Army Corps has released new potential timelines for the Morganza several times in the past week. Each new schedule had the spillway opening a day later at the earliest. Seidenglanz said he hopes that pattern of delays continues and that the spillway does not have to be opened at all.

"The last time that it came up in 2011 it really hasn't been the same since then. The hunting's not back to where it used to be and this about to happen again is going to be kind of horrifying," he said.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries voted last week to end deer hunting season in the flood zones if the spillways are opened. The closures become effective half an hour after sunset on the days the gates are opened.

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