Bonnet Carre will open Monday as “massive amount of water” heads down Mississippi

By By Matt Scallan, The Times-Picayune
5 May 2011

 BATON ROUGE — The Bonnet Carre Spillway will be opened on Monday to relieve levees along the Mississippi River that are strained by what Gov. Bobby Jindal described as "a massive amount of water heading our way."

06spillwaytest2111.jpgWater pours out of one of the bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway structure in Norco as a crew of Army Corps of Engineers employees practice removing and replacing wooden needles Tuesday.

The spillway opening is likely to begin at about 8 a.m.

Jindal, who held a news conferenceearlier today in Baton Rouge, said that the Army Corps of Engineers has not yet requested an opening of the Morganza Spillway, which diverts water into the Atchafalaya Basin, but urged people who live in the area to make preparations to leave if necessary.

The Bonnet Carre’ Spillway, located between Norco and Montz in St. Charles Parish, can divert up to 250,000 cubic feet of water per second away from communities downstream.

The Mississippi River Commission must make the final decision on a spillway opening.

"The US Army Corps of Engineers told us today that the opening of the Morganza Spillway to relieve pressure off of the Mississippi River is now a possibility," Jindal said.

"The National Weather Service estimates show that the river will be up to historically high levels for approximately seven to 10 days, which will be especially trying to the fortification of our levees and floodwalls."

Jindal also said the Corps of Engineers and area levee districts will move into a daily inspection of area levees to guard scouring or sand boils that could harm the integrity of the levees.

The other parishes are Concordia, East Carroll, Madison, and Tensas.

Jindal said the river levels are projected to rise to historic heights, including 25 feet at Reserve, one foot below the record level of 1929. At Donaldsonville, the river is at 27 feet, within two feet of the top of the area’s levees.

With the threat of flooding imminent, five parishes have declared a state of emergency to give them additional tools to deal with the disaster. St. Mary Parish, where communities such as Amelia, are vulnerable to "back-flooding" if too much water gets into the Atchafalaya Basin.

Morgan City, which is protected by a floodwall, is located on the Atchafalaya.