The Army Corps of Engineers expects to begin closing the Bonnet Carré Spillway, north of New Orleans, sometime in the second or third week of July.
The corps began opening the spillway on May 10 to relieve stress on levees protecting New Orleans due to high water on the Mississippi River. It was the first time the spillway has been opened twice in one year.
Crews opened 168 of the spillway’s 250 bays over 11 days, using cranes to pull up 20 huge timbers called needles in each bay. Spokesman Matt Roe says the closing will be gradual and at the same pace as the Mississippi River’s fall, just as the opening was paced to its rise. He says he doesn’t know how long it will take.
The spillway was opened for 44 days in February, March and April and has now been open for 48 days, breaking the one-year record of 75 days in 1973. The current opening has tied the third-place mark for consecutive days. The spillway was open for 48 days in 1937 and 57 in 1945. A corps tweet Wednesday said the closing will begin when the river falls to 15.5 feet (4.7 meters) at the Carrollton gage.
The governors of Louisiana and Mississippi say freshwater has replaced brackish water in Lake Pontchartrain and left much of the Mississippi Sound far less salty than usual, killing oysters, hurting fish catches and damaging livelihoods. Both have asked the U.S. Commerce Department to declare a fisheries disaster. Scientists say fresh water in the sound may have also contributed to a high number of dolphin deaths. Read the full story.