Louisiana Joins Lawsuit Over Bonnet Carre Spillway Damage

Jun 17, 2020

The state of Louisiana has joined two lawsuits as a defendant over the operation of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

One of the lawsuits was filed by a collection of coastal Mississippi towns. It claims that the increasingly frequent use of the Bonnet Carre Spillway has damaged the environment of the Mississippi coast, and wants new environmental assessments to be completed.

The flood control structure, which diverts from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, has caused environmental problems across the Gulf Coast — damaging harvests of oyster and shrimp fisheries and causing toxic algal blooms that have shut down Mississippi beaches.

The other was filed by the state of Mississippi. It makes similar claims and asks for other flood control structures, like the Morganza Spillway located north of Baton Rouge, to be used more often.

Both lawsuits were filed within a week of one another in December 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Now the state of Louisiana is jumping into the mix. On June 12, a federal judge allowed the Bayou State state to become a defendant in both cases, alongside the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the flood control structures, and the Mississippi River Commission, which decides when to do so.

Making its case to join the suits, the state said that “while Louisiana supports the operation of the spillway to protect lives and property, it also recognizes that the Corps could take steps to manage water resources differently during high water events.”

For most of its history, the Bonnet Carre was used once every 10 years, but it’s been opened 6 times in the last 10 years.

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