The still-rising Mississippi River has topped a levee north of Lake Providence in extreme northeast Louisiana, flooding croplands, having thwarted an effort by farmers to shore up the 100-year-old structure. About 12,000 acres behind the 18-mile-long levee, mostly planted in corn and soybeans, were flooded today, though no homes appeared to be in danger in the thinly populated area. Maintenance on the levee was abandoned years ago after another, higher levee was built farther back off the river. Area farmers had pooled together and about 40 worked in recent days to stack about 1,800 one-ton sandbags along the levee’s weakest points. But the river is cresting higher than originally forecast, and it topped the levee overnight.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to open the huge Morganza spillway structure in the coming days. The Mississippi is expected to reach a flow of 1.5 million cubic feet per second on Saturday at Red River Landing. At least 10 freight terminals along the lower Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans have suspended operations because of the high water, says Roy Gonzalez, acting president of the Gulf States Maritime Association, which represents steamship agents and terminal operators. Vessels scheduled to use the terminals will either have to wait out the high water, or divert to other terminals. That could cost ships up to $40,000 a day, he says. Gonzalez says the potential shipping crisis could be cut shorter by opening the Morganza spillway. He says the corps has told shipping officials that opening Morganza could drop the river level by two feet relatively quickly.