Governor Jindal Says State Preparing for Possible River Flooding, Corps of Engineers Considering Opening Morganza Spillway

By State of Louisiana Office of the Governor
4 May 2011

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal today held a Unified Command Group meeting with the heads of state agencies and the US Weather Service along with the Army Corps of Engineers to stress the importance of proactive state preparedness efforts, while coordinating with federal action in response to possible Mississippi River flooding.

Governor Jindal said, “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. This is a change from what they told us at UCG last week. 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. We also continue to talk to the Corps about the benefits of opening the Bonne Carre Spillway and now expect it to be opened as early as Monday. The Corps is moving to a Phase 2 response involving twice daily inspections along the Mississippi River on Thursday and a Phase 2 for the Atchafalaya River this weekend.”

The Governor said that with the rising river levels will impact the Angola State Penitentiary and that due to the elevated river projections, Angola will begin to evacuate prisoners in phases. The first phase will be for the mentally ill on Monday, May 9th, and the second phase will be on Wednesday, May 11th. All evacuation plans will be coordinated with Sheriff’s offices in order to ensure public safety and offender security at all times.

“Angola is also announcing that there will be no offender visitation or outside activities at Louisiana State Penitentiary or Elayn Hunt Correctional Center from Monday, May 9, 2011 through June 1, 2011 – at the earliest.

“The Louisiana National Guard is working to support Angola’s flood preparation efforts. Specifically, LANG has deployed five dump trucks to Angola, sent a front-end loader to augment their limestone loading operation, and they are currently dispatching 125 tents from Camp Minden Warehouse to Angola, in addition to working in conjunction with DCFS to identify 1,500 cots that will then be transported to Angola. GOHSEP also provided Angola with 105,000 sand bags and five generators.”

Governor Jindal also said he will fly along the levee systems tomorrow with the Corps to inspect flood management systems, and that the state continues to work closely with the Corps on preventative actions that may be needed.


Current projections show the crests on the MS River are as follows:

Red River Landing (flood state is 48 feet): crest projection is around 65.5 feet on morning of 5/21. 
The Angola prison structure is protected to up to 68 feet with inner levees.
The predicted crest is more than four feet above the highest level on record.

Baton Rouge (flood stage is 35 feet): crest projection is 47.5 feet on afternoon of 5/21.
This is higher than all floods except for 1927 (48 feet).  
The river is expected to enter flood state this evening (5/2).  
This level will affect port activities and will put extraordinary pressure on levees near LSU and Brightside.  
The state is ready to assist Baton Rouge in their work to monitor and maintain levees, and assisted in applying geotiles and sandbags over the weekend to sandboils as they emerged.

Donaldsonville (flood state is 27 feet): crest projection is 36 feet on evening of 5/21.
This is within about two feet of the top of the levee and ties the record level (1927).

Reserve (flood stage is 22 feet): crest projection is 25 feet on morning of 5/22. 
Within one foot of major flood stage and within one foot of the record level (1929).

New Orleans (flood stage is 17 feet): crest projection is 17 feet on morning of 5/22.
Levees protect to 20 feet.  This includes result of opening the Bonnet Carre.


• LANG is coordinating with Levee District Number 5 to provide three Palletized Load System Racks.  The Levee District will mount these racks on their Swamp Buggies to help deliver sandbags to sand boils by this Friday.

• Five parishes have already declared a state of emergency to prepare for possible flooding, including:
o Concordia
o East Carroll
o Madison
o Tensas
o St. Mary

• GOHSEP has provided 30,000 sand bags to Madison Parish, and 160,000 sandbags along with 4,000 HESCO baskets to Concordia Parish.

• GOHSEP is also working with Corps of Engineers to identify 8,000 feet of HESCO baskets in Vidalia – to be used to protect Vidalia Convention Center.

• Today, DOTD sent survey crews in support of levee assessment to Angola State Penitentiary. The survey crew will verify levee elevation marks.

• In Concordia Parish, DOTD is working with USACE to close a portion (approximately 1,000 feet) of La. 15 to facilitate fortification of the levee near St. Genevieve.  
o La. 15 runs on the crown of the levee in this area. 
o Traffic will be detoured via U.S. 84, La. 129, and La. 565.

• In East Carroll Parish, DOTD has hauled approximately 5,500 cubic yards of sand in support of levee fortification efforts. DOTD has 30 trucks actively hauling sand from Perryville (near Bastrop) to be distributed throughout East Carroll Parish. DOTD forces are scheduled to haul 10,000 cubic yards total by the first of next week. An additional 10 trucks are available as needed to assist in hauling efforts.

• St. Francisville ferry service will close when the Mississippi River gets to the 53-foot mark at the Red River Landing gauge. DOTD is preparing for this potential closure.

• DOTD staff is being reassigned to assist levee districts and the Corps in the 24-hour operation of levee inspections from the Arkansas line to the Old River Control Center in Lettsworth, La.

• DOTD is preparing for the possible opening of the John James Audobon Bridge from St. Francisville to New Roads this weekend.

• Troopers are continuously inspecting highways, especially those prone to flooding to include River Road.  Should the need arise, troopers will assist with road closures and developing alternate routes.

• The Louisiana State Police Air Support Unit is conducting flyovers and is available to support levee inspections along the Mississippi River.

• The Louisiana State Police Mobile Field Force/Rapid Response Team of approximately 200 Troopers is on alert and ready to deploy.

• The Office of State Fire Marshal is tracking assets to ensure availability and readiness to support swift water rescue operations and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams.

• LDWF recently dispatched a barge and a pontoon boat to Angola to aid in any potential evacuation of prisoners.

• Yesterday, May 2, LDWF announced the opening of a special shrimp season in Vermillion Bay that will take effect at 6 a.m. this Friday, May 6.
o Biological samples indicate there is marketable over-wintering white shrimp available for harvest.
o This opening will allow the industry to harvest shrimp before freshwater from the Atchafalaya River pushes shrimp into offshore waters and out of the reach of local fishermen.

• LDWF will recommend the opening of a portion of public seed grounds east of the Mississippi River at the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting on Thursday, May 5.
o If a recommendation is approved and an opening is enacted by the Commission, some public seed grounds east of the Mississippi could be open for harvest as early as May 9.

• LDWF is postponing for 30 days an oyster cultch plant in Lake Borgne that was scheduled for May.
o We announced this cultch plant as an early restoration action to aid the Louisiana oyster industry from impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and response efforts.
o A large amount freshwater for an extended period of time from the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway could negatively impact potential spat sets on any new oyster cultch.
o LDWF will re-evaluate the cultch plant after 30 days.

• DCFS has identified 79,139 total shelter spaces available statewide (state run and Red Cross).
o More than 65 percent of the shelter spaces available are in close proximately to those areas that could be impacted by flooding on Mississippi River or Atchafalaya River basin.
o 4,775 spaces could be ready in 12 hours. 
o 79,139 spaces could be operational in 72 – 96 hours. 
o Red Cross’ goal is to open shelters within 2 hours of requests. 
o Red Cross could open up to 7,500 spaces within the first 12-24 hours of requests rolling in. Larger requests will require mobilization of national Red Cross workers.

• DCFS has more than 40,000 cots, nearly 100,000 MREs available, 42,000 hygiene kits, 32,000 blankets and 20,000 pillows are on hand and available. 

• Vendors that provide hygiene resources have been alerted and resource availability information received.

• DEQ has staff and equipment on standby to take water samples as needed. In the past, DEQ has monitored Lake Pontchartrain when the Bonne Carre spillway was open to relieve pressure from the Mississippi River. DEQ monitored the Lake to ensure the influx of freshwater was not detrimental to water quality of the Lake.

• The Office of Coastal Management (OCM) is prepared to activate the Fuel Team to coordinate fuel supplies to facilitate any evacuations.

• Oil Spill Response staff is on standby to assist LOSCO in responding to any oil spill incidents that could result from potential flooding. OCM is also participating in calls and discussions regarding possible opening of Bonnet Carre and Morganza Spillways to be ready to assess and issue emergency consistency if need be. 

• OJJ has informed all appropriate staff and facility directors of the situation and all are on alert.  The secure care facilities are ready to activate established emergency operations if it becomes necessary.