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Army Corps Will Open Bonnet Carre Spillway On Wednesday

Travis Lux
Colonel Michael Clancy announces that the US Army Corps of Engineers will begin operating the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Norco later this week.

Heavy rains in the Midwest have caused the Mississippi River to swell. To relieve pressure on local levees, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin operating the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Norco on Wednesday.

The levees near New Orleans are only built to handle water moving at 1.25 million cubic feet per second -- quick enough to fill the Superdome in about a minute, the Corps estimates. When the river gets going that fast the Corps opens the spillway, diverting some of that water into Lake Pontchartrain.

Army Corps Emergency Manager Heath Jones says the structure is basically a release valve for the Mississippi River.

“Without the spillway, says Jones, “the levees downstream would have to be much higher.”

The Corps will begin operating the spillway on Wednesday. Officials say they’ll open 38 of the structure’s 350 bays to start, then potentially as many as 200 as the crest of the river moves downriver. Right now, the Corps expects to spillway to be open for about a month -- though that could change as the river demands.

The public is invited to attend Wednesday’s opening, which is currently planned for 10am. It will mark the third time the spillway has been operated in 4 years.

Right now, Corps officials do not think they will have to open the Morganza Spillway. That structure is located north of Baton Rouge and performs a similar release valve function, but has only been operated twice: 1973 and 2011.


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

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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