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Coastal Desk

Army Corps Opens Spillway To Large Crowd

Travis Lux
Army Corps of Engineers employees prepare to open the Bonnet Carré Spillway. The Spillway has 350 bays, each bay has 20 wooden beams that hold back the water. Workers will lift individual beams to open the Spillway."

The Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway to a big crowd Thursday morning, in order to relieve pressure on Mississippi River levees downstream.


The Army Corps estimates 500-600 people showed up to watch the Corps open the Spillway. Katie Huffaker drove all the way from Houma. She homeschools her kids and thought it would make for a good lesson in geography.  

“When you learn it in a textbook, it’s a little boring,” she says.


“But when you can see it firsthand it’s a little easier for the children to grasp. And understand what’s going on and why these things happen.”


Credit Travis Lux / WWNO
Crowds of people watch as the Bonnet Carre Spillway releases water from the Mississippi River toward Lake Pontchartrain.

When the Mississippi River rises, it stresses the levees that keep it in place, and that keep us dry on the other side. In order to prevent any potential breaks, the Corps opens the spillway to divert some of that water toward Lake Pontchartrain.


The spillway is essentially a dam. It holds water back with a row of vertically placed wooden beams — 7,000 of them. To open it, workers individually pluck each beam until they get the flow they want.

It’s a very slow process. Katie Huffaker’s seven-year-old, Cohen, thought it was going to be a little more dramatic.

“I imagined it to be quicker and the water to get higher quicker,” he said with a smile. “More exciting.”

The Army Corps expects to keep the Spillway open for about three weeks.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Foundation for Louisiana, and local listeners.

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