NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Army Corps of Engineers began opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway for the third time in just 15 months.
The unprecedented opening is likely linked directly to rising water in the Mississippi River.
It will be the fourth opening of the spillway in just three years as the Corps says the Mississippi River is expected to hit flood stage Friday. That will trigger an opening to protect the levees in New Orleans.
The Corps says just like last year, it’s spent the majority of this year in at lease a phase on flood fight. That happens when the river is at lease eleven feet at the Carrollton gauge.
At least 88 of the 94 days in 2020, the Corps have ramped up its monitoring of levees along the river as the forecast is now expected to see the river cresting above 17 feet. That level would trigger the opening of the spillway.
Last year, after two openings, fishermen say the freshwater in the lake killed their catch and created an algae bloom because of the nutrient rich water from the river.
Friday, the Corps only opened 10 of the 350 bays. Eventually, they believe they will open about a third of the bays.
Since last September, there’s been another period of unusually high rainfall along the Mississippi River and its various tributaries.
The forecast was for the river to rise about another foot. So, the Army General in charge of the Mississippi River Valley pulled the trigger on opening the spillway now.
“The worst thing that can happen is that I wait too long to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway and then, as you know, when weather comes in it’s not safe. I cannot have my crews out there at that time and we don’t want to risk water rising to a point that impacts live and property down river,” says General Mark Tony.
“We passed more water last year through this system right here that we had ever passed in any previous flood. And I think it’s 14 or 15 significant previous floods. And the system works,” says Col. Stephen Murphy.
The Corps is stressing this is not last year. They hope to push about 10 percent of the river into Lake Pontchartrain compared to 2019.
But that depends on the rain. As he Corps conceded today: mother nature has the last word.