Friday, March 27, 2009

Only in Louisiana

Finally, nearly four years post Katrina, we have the closure of the MRGO. It will celebrated with the "Close MRGO Rock Throwing Ceremony".

From the TP

The closing of the controversial Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet in St. Bernard Parish will be marked in a unique way Saturday: with the casting of stones.

Government officials, conservationists and residents will pile into boats and head out to Bayou La Loutre, where everyone will get the chance to chuck rocks into the waterway at the spot where it is being plugged.

click on photos for larger versions

Image courtesy of Times Picayune graphics.

The ceremony is sponsored by St. Bernard Parish government, the St. Bernard Parish Sportsmen's League, the St. Bernard Coastal Advisory Committee and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

"It'll be a different way to express a little relief, " Carlton Dufrechou, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said with a chuckle. "Old-timers have been talking for years of just blocking it with rocks. So this is for them."

The shipping channel, also known as MR-GO, was built in the 1960s as a shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. It has taken the brunt of criticism in St. Bernard Parish, the Lower 9th Ward and some parts of eastern New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina's deadly flooding in 2005. Although the Army Corps of Engineers has said the channel had minimal impact on flooding, the MR-GO became increasingly unpopular in St. Bernard Parish after the hurricane.

In January, Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Co. of Pine Bluff, Ark., began erecting a rock structure across the channel. The structure's base will be 450 feet wide, tapering to 12 feet at the top. It will be 950 feet long and will jut 7 feet from the water's surface. The structure will consist of 430,000 tons of rock and cover 10 acres of the channel bottom.

Some of the rock used for the structure will come from the jetties that extend from the MR-GO into Breton Sound.

In late February, the work was almost 15 percent complete. Full closure is scheduled by July.

As humorous as this celebration sounds, it represents another step further away from the damages caused by Katrina.

from Wikipedia: Levees along MR-GO were breached in approximately 20 places along its length, directly flooding most of Saint Bernard Parish and New Orleans East. Storm surge from MR-GO is also a leading suspect in the three breaches of the Industrial Canal

Click here for a great intereactive graphic created by the TP showing how Katrina flooded southeast Louisiana.

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