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Army Corps Closes Bonnet Carre Spillway After 28 Days

Cypress trees lining Lake Pontchartrain near the Bonnet Carre Spillway are dying from salt water intrusion.
Eileen Fleming
Cypress trees lining Lake Pontchartrain near the Bonnet Carre Spillway are dying from salt water intrusion.

The Army Corps of Engineers closed the final bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Friday, ending the days-long process of closing the flood control structure.

The spillway was open for a total of 28 days. It was first opened this year on April 3.

The Corps uses the Bonnet Carre as a release valve for the Mississippi River, diverting a portion of the river’s flow into Lake Pontchartrain when flood waters threaten to damage levees in the New Orleans area.

This year marks the fifth time the spillway has been opened in the last five years. Historically, it was only used once every decade or so.

Algal blooms often follow spillway openings. Mississippi River water has high concentrations of nutrients from agricultural fertilizers. Those fertilizers encourage toxic algae to grow in coastal waters, which has already closed beaches in Mississippi this year.

The algal blooms also cause areas of little to no oxygen in the ocean — called dead zones — which can kill sea creatures and reduce the harvest of seafood like shrimp.

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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