NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Wednesday marked the 76th day that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has operated the Bonnet Carre Spillway in 2019, eclipsing the record for the longest operation in a single calendar year.
The spillway opened on April 8, 1973 and ran for 75 days, according to Corps records.
The two openings in 2019 - 43 days beginning on Feb. 27 and 33 days beginning last month - mark a new high.
The Corps operates the Spillway in St. Charles Parish as a giant relief valve to prevent flooding downstream in New Orleans and several of its suburbs.
The 1973 opening pushed more water through the spillway at its peak, 250,000 cubic feet per second, and involved all of the mile-long structure’s 350 bays.
As of Tuesday, the Corps was maintaining 168 bays, pushing an estimated 147,000 cfs through the spillway into Lake Pontchartrain.
Even at that slower rate, the spillway’s flow would fill the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in just over 14 minutes.
The spillway’s lengthy opening has sparked outcry from seafood interests, including fishermen and politicians on the Mississippi Gulf Coast who complain fresh, polluted river water is damaging fisheries.
Based on forecasts from the National Weather Service, the Mississippi is likely to remain high for several weeks..
As of Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., the Carrollton gauge in New Orleans read 16.66 feet.
Forecasters expect the river to remain at roughly 16.6 feet through July 5 before it begins to fall, dropping to an estimated 16.2 feet by July 9.