NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Friday around 1 p.m. due to the threat of weather.
Regional rainfall caused the Mississippi River to rise 6 inches in the past 24 hours with more rain expected through the weekend. These rains could elevate the Mississippi River above 17 feet with a peak as high as 17.5 feet at the Carrollton Gage.
The levees in are 20′ to 22′ high depending on where you are at in New Orleans.
According to the Corps, opening procedures begin when the river reaches the operational trigger of 1.25 million cubic feet per second.
“In an abundance of caution the operation date is being moved forward to ensure the safe passage of this high water by limiting the elevations downriver of the spillway,” the Corps said in a release.
Corps Major General Richard Kaiser said this has been the wettest period in 124 years.
“This is not business as usual. This is the first time in the 90 year history of that structure that we’ve opened it twice in one year,” Kaiser said. " So based on the weather conditions that existed here today and the excessive heavy rain that we experienced, we had no choice but to open the spillway today."
Corps officials try and limit openings to minimize the impact of freshwater entering the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. However some worry the freshwater will harm the lake and wildlife.
This is the first time in history that it has been operated twice in a year.
“It’s a difficult call and decision to make but the fisheries and health of lake and estuary can be impacted because this is a flood control structure and not necessarily a diversion,” Brady Skaggs of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said.
Roughly half of the bays planned to be open should be finished Friday. The Corps expects to surpass its longest flood fight of 225 days set in 1973.