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Army Corps Begins Closing Bonnet Carre Spillway

Travis Lux

The Army Corps of Engineers is closing the Bonnet Carre Spillway, 10 days after opening it to relieve pressure on the flooding Mississippi River.

Located in Norco, the flood control structure diverts water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, which prevents flooding and levee damage in the New Orleans area downstream.

The Corps opened it on April 3rd, as flood waters from the Midwest caused the river to rise. At the crest of flood water moved through the area, as much as 80,000 cubic feet per second rushed through the spillway’s diversion channel.

But with less water in the river’s forecast, Corps officials said it was time to begin slowly closing the structure, according to a press release. It has not yet said when the spillway will be completely shut.

In recent years the Corps has been under increasing pressure to minimize how long it keeps the spillway open.

Last year, the spillway was opened twice -- for more than 100 days. Agricultural fertilizers in the water caused toxic algal blooms as far away as Mississippi, shutting down public beaches. And the influx of fresh river water decimated fisheries, like oysters, which need salt water to survive.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. 

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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