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Corps explains important factor needed to open Morganza Spillway

Published: May. 13, 2011 at 12:45 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2011 at 2:11 PM CDT
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MORGANZA, LA (WAFB) - The Morganza Spillway is perhaps the most watched structure in Louisiana right now. Many wonder when it will open. Officials explained the process involved in funneling the water through its gates.

The spillway has been closed for almost 40 years. The last time it was opened was 1973. It holds the key to taking massive pressure off of the Mississippi River and diverting it to farms and the Atchafalaya Basin, causing frustration for people who live in those areas.

"The state has no control over that, but what we can do is get our people prepared," said Gov. Bobby Jindal. "Whether the corps opens the spillway or not, there's going to be water in the spillway."

According to Col. Ed Fleming with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the structure cannot open until the river reaches a threshold of 1.5 million cubic feet of water per second. Once that threshold is reached, half of the 125 gates of the spillway will be opened, funneling 300,000 cubic feet of water per second.

There will be a trickle-down effect. When the spillway opens, it will take just a day for water to reach Krotz Springs and in three days, the people of Morgan City will see it.

Right now, the Corps of Engineers says it will most likely open the structure, sometime between Saturday and Tuesday.

"We have asked, ideally, for five days notice. I've asked that from the general," Jindal added.

However, a five-day notice may not happen, which is why Sheriff Bud Torres is telling people in Pointe Coupee Parish not to wait.

The governor sent a letter to US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday requesting federal aid for farmers who may be affected if and when the spillway opens.

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