Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
MORGANZA, La. -- Morganza is a no stop-light town, stretching less than a mile along Hwy. 1. The tiny town and what’s on the edge of it will soon get a lot of attention.
Allen Monk is a police juror here, a city councilman of sorts. He now carries around a picture showing what happened the only time the Morganza Spillway ever opened.
“Our hearts go out to everybody downstream,” Monk said. “This is monumental water. Never been seen before.”
In 1973 it was open to relieve pressure on the nearby Old River, but now flooding is the corps’ concern.
“Morganza Spillway has actually never been opened before for the purpose that it was intended to,” said Ricky Boyett, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.
Normally the Mississippi River isn’t even close to the spillway, but now it touches “prime, pristine farm land,” Monk said.
The Morganza Spillway is different from the Bonnet Carre. It opens when two cranes lift the steel gates below.
“It’s all open or all closed, so we’ll open gates according to how much flow we need to go through,” Boyett said.
The river is so high the water is seeping through the gates, and according to a corps spokesman, the water is about 20 feet high, meaning there is a wall of water waiting to pour through the spillway.
The corps says if it does open, water will ease out, starting with about 1 foot in depth. Then they’ll raise the amount little by little, opening it gate by gate.
But the corps won’t even think about opening it until the river flow reaches 1.5 million cubic feet per second. And it’s not there yet.
“My constituents are worried. They are concerned," Monk said. "Everybody has to make a plan, and we’d like to make our plan and enforce it. Just stop the changes. Let us know what’s going on."
The corps says the most likely time the decision will be made to open the Morganza Spillway will be late Friday night, depending on the pressure on the levees downriver in Baton Rouge, the pressure on the levees all the way down to New Orleans, and the river flow rate.
The corps is expecting the river to get to 1.5 million cubic feet per second Saturday, and that’s when they would immediately start opening the spillway. They say they would only have to open it up about 25 percent.