For the first time in history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened parts the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Friday (05/10/2019) for the second time in one year. This comes just over a month after the Bonnet Carre Spillway was closed on April 11. Originally, officials had planned to open the spillway on Tuesday, but Friday’s heavy rain could have caused the river to rise above 17 feet, with a peak as high as 17.5 feet at the Carrollton Gage. 17 feet is the flood stage.
“We are still in the midst of a significant flood fight not just here but throughout the country,” said Major Gen, Richard Kaiser commander of the Mississippi Valley Division during a press conference. “All the weather events you have seen in many parts to the United States is what’s causing a lot of flooding down here,” he added. It is the result of the wettest winter in the Mississippi Valley in the last 124 years.
Officials planned on opening about 40 out of 350 bays on Friday. They were not able to say how may bays they would open eventually or for how long the Bonnet Carre Spillway would remain open. This will depend on future rainfall totals in the Midwest and the Ohio Valley. The Bonnet Carre has been operated 14 times since 1937. It was build was built in response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
How Does It Work?
Opening the spillway will help the river flow through the area so it doesn’t get backed up. The Bonnet Carre consists of a control structure and a floodway. The control structure is a concrete weir that parallels the river for a mile and a half. It has 350 gated bays, each holding 20 timber “needles,” for a total of 7,000 needles. When needles are removed, river water flows into the floodway and is conveyed nearly six miles between guide levees to lake Pontchartrain. The spillway opening sends fresh water into the normally salty and brackish waters of Lake Pontchartrain.
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