Crowds concerned as spillway opens

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 9, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Updated Monday, May 9 at 5:51 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News

RESERVE, La. -- Opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway is designed to prevent a disaster, but the event, just the tenth opening since the spillway was completed in 1931, drew an excited crowd, complete with armchairs, blankets, refreshment and children.

“This is my son Payton. He’s actually been doing a social studies project on the Bonnet Carre Spillway and has advanced to the state competition tomorrow, so I thought what better way for him to really see what goes on so he can go and talk about it tomorrow, than to bring him and show him what goes on here,” said Bonny Jacobs, a Reserve resident.

Payton Jacobs said he was “excited to be out here and skip a little bit of school.”

Opening the spillway is designed to divert water from the swollen Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, lowering the river level and reducing pressure on the levees.

“People need to be concerned, as we are seeing record levels of flow,” said Col. Ed Fleming of the Army Corps of Engineers. “But we are out, the Corps of Engineers is out every day, inspecting every foot of levee along the Mississippi River and along the Atchafalaya River.”

The corps is expected to open all 350 bays of the spillway by the time the river reaches its crest in a couple of weeks. But with officials calling this an event of historic proportions, many of those living along the river are watching and worrying.

“This is the highest level ever and we’ve been through some pretty hard stuff, and I’d hate to see us have to do more of it,” said Susan Blalock, an observer of the opening of the spillway.

Reserve resident Mike Taylor said, “It’s real close to home. Close to use being flooded out really.”

“We’re seeing a lot of logs punching holes in the cement along the cement part of the levee,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Nungesser hoped opening the spillway will reduce the chances of flooding, especially in one low lying section of levee.

“The area in the north end of Belle Chasse where they’ve degraded the levee, we’ve got just mud there. So they’re putting sand bags in,” Nungesser said.

Corps officials have asked the Mississippi River Commission to also open the Morganza Spillway north of Baton Rouge for the first time since 1973. But the president of the commission said that decision has not been made.

“The Morganza Spillway is being considered. I just took a brief from the district commander, and we’re looking at taking his recommendation and I’ll make a decision later in the week,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The corps expects to open 41 bays Tuesday. They’ll keep doing it until all 350 bays are open by the time the crest gets here.

 

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