MORGANZA, La. (WAFB) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will officially open the Morganza Control Structure and Floodway June 2.
Current forecasts indicate the river will reach a stage in excess of 62 feet at Red River Landing. Corps District Commander Michael Clancy requested permission to operate the Morganza Floodway to prevent the flood control structure from over-topping, to minimize stress in leveed reaches, and to preserve encroachment on freeboard downstream.
The Corps currently anticipates the need to divert approximately 150,000 cubic feet per second into the floodway to avoid over-topping of the structure. It will gradually open the spillway to minimize impacts to wildlife, and allow federal and state resource agencies to coordinate and implement rescue efforts for various species.
The gradual, or slow opening, allows the Corps to limit elevations in the floodway by adding one foot of water per day for the first three days.
All potentially impacted residents, landowners, and businesses are urged to heed the direction of their local officials and take necessary precautions in advance of the pending operation, the Corps said.
According to Chip Kline, chairman of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), a barge will be moved into place in Morgan City Tuesday. On Thursday, officials will sink the barge to assist with flooding in Bayou Chene.
The United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Houma is enforcing a safety zone for Bayou Chene. The zone will be enforced beginning Tuesday, May 28 at 12 p.m. through Thursday, May 30 at 6 p.m. or until completion of the sinking of the barge. Afterwards, Bayou Chene will remain closed to commercial traffic. During this time and until further notice, the Bayou Boeuf lock will be open to all navigation. This will be the only east to west route from Port Arthur, Texas to New Orleans.
In March, Governor John Bel Edwards announced the state would begin construction on a permanent Bayou Chene floodgate to prevent having to sink additional barges, which serve as temporary floodgates.
Without a barge or a floodgate in place, Assumption, St. Mary, lower St. Martin, Iberville, and Terrebonne parishes would likely flood. Sinking the barge days before the spillway will help water levels go down in the Morgan City and backwater-flooded areas. The gradual opening of the gates will allow water in the Atchafalaya Basin to rise slowly enough to nudge wildlife to higher ground without a sudden inundation, officials say.
The spillway will be opened one gate per day across a 10 to 14 day period. After each gate is opened, officials will monitor river levels and determine how many gates they will need to open.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) is urging those in the affected area to secure or remove household chemicals ahead of the spillway being opened. Those chemicals can float or become inundated with water and present a hazard to both humans and the environment. Hazardous or potentially hazardous materials include:
- Household chemicals, paint, herbicides, pesticides, caustic and flammable liquids
- White goods (refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves, and similar appliances)
- Electronic appliances (computers, laptops, televisions, stereos, etc.)
- All other solid, nonhazardous wastes/debris (building materials, furniture, etc.)
- Drums, containers, propane bottles, waste tires, boats, and any other items that can float and potentially cause damage
Backwater flooding has already moved into parts of Assumption, St. Mary, and St. Martin parishes. Early Monday morning, officials placed sand sacks along Hgihway 70 in lower St. Martin Parish to fight flood waters.
This is the third time in history the Morganza Spillway will be opened.