Spillway Evacuated

Its opening will boost plant and fish life

The opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway might be a minor inconvenience to those that regularly take advantage of all the site has to offer, but it will prove to be a boon for the vegetation and fish that call the spillway home.

“It will certainly provide a lot of crawfish to the area,” Milton Cambre, a local environmentalist, said. “In the spillway, what we need is what the river provides, and the nutrients that are brought in really help the vegetation and fish thrive.”

The Bonnet Carré Spillway is a flood control operation that allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and then the Gulf of Mexico. The spillway was built after the Great Flood of 1927 that inundated much of the Mississippi River basin. The spillway was first opened in 1937 and has been opened seven times after that, most recently in 1997.

“The spillway is usually only opened for a short duration, like a couple of weeks,” Cambre said. “However, it could be open for as long as a month and a half depending on how much rain we have and how closely the opening coincides with spring melting.”

Cambre says that opening the spillway usually provides for an extra 8 to 10 feet of water in the area.
“You’ll only be able to see the roof of the pavilion at the main boat launch,” he said.

Cambre says that once the decision is made to close the spillway, whether that be a few weeks or a few months from now, it takes the water a couple of days to return to the level it was at before the opening.

“I’ve been here since 1959 and opening the spillway has always been a huge plus for us environmentally,” Cambre said. “There is no downside to it except for the minor inconvenience it causes. I’m looking forward to the opening.”

The Army Corps of Engineers  might have to open the spillway soon in order to lower the level of the Mississippi as it passes New Orleans. That’s because heavy rainfall in the Arkansas, Ohio and Upper Mississippi River valleys has increased flood worries in New Orleans.

The decision to open the spillway would have to be made by Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, who is the commander of the corps’ Mississippi Valley Division in Vicksburg, Miss.

Check the Herald-Guide’s website at www.heraldguide.com for more information on when the spillway will open.

Both spillway boat launches were shut down this week by the corps until further notice due to high water and fast-moving currents in the spillway.

Those include launches at the Lake Pontchartrain end of the Guide Levee underneath Interstate 10 as well as the boat launch near the pavilion off Hwy. 61.

Public Works Superintendent Steve Truitt said the corps also shut down access to the spillway for recreational users. The Corps is sending out airboats to make sure the spillway is completely evacuated.

“The Corps and the parish are erring on the side of caution,” Truitt said. “Safety is very important.”

Parish President V.J. St. Pierre says he is looking forward to the increase in fish that results after the opening.

“I can tell you from personal experience that the fishing is just phenomenal a year after the spillway is opened,” he said.


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