All spillway bays should be closed by next week
Chris Brantley, project manager at the spillway, said that he expects all of the bays to be closed by early next week.
“As soon as the last needle in the last bay gets put in place, we’ll allow people in the spillway again,” Brantley said. But he warned that the currents are still very strong and people should not try to enter the spillway before it is officially reopened. “We know people want to fish and get back to the boat launches and we’re going to do our best to make that happen.”
The last time the spillway was opened in 2008, only 160 of the bays were opened but the road going through the spillway was heavily damaged and took six months and almost $500,000 to repair.
Brantley said that the road is not clear of water yet, but that he expects to be able to see any damage some time next week.
“The road hasn’t come out of the water yet, but portions along the guide levees appear to be fine,” he said. “If it’s in real bad shape, we’ll try to fix it up temporarily, but it’s going to take a thorough assessment.”
The Army Corps of Engineers began closing the bays on Saturday, June 11, slowing the flow of the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain. At the height of this year’s high river event, 316,000 cubic feet per second of sediment-laden river water was flowing into the lake, causing much of the water in the lake to turn brown.
The decision to begin closing the bays is based on the reduced flows in the Mississippi River at Red River Landing, just below the Morganza Floodway, where all but one gate has been closed.
“The river is dropping fairly fast upriver,” Brantley said.
The spillway and the Morganza floodway to the north are part of a system designed to keep water levels remaining below 1.25 million cubic feet per second in the river as it passes New Orleans.
In order to close each bay, cranes must lower 20 wooden needles into place from a rail track that extends over the spillway.
Brantley said that when the spillway is reopened, visitors can expect to see an increase in wildlife and sand.
“It’s going to bring a lot of fish and crawfish, that’s for sure,” he said. “People have already been catching fish along the edges. This is going to increase the amount of aquatic life - that attracts not only people but also birds.
“And there will also be a lot more sand. We get a lot of sand deposits that accumulate after an opening.”
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