Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Historic Flooding on the Mississippi RIver

 

Mississippi River Water Diverted to the Atchafalaya River via the Old River Control Complex and Morganza Spillway in Louisiana

 

by Wilma Subra
May 8, 2011

 

The rising Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River water levels will reach record flood state levels in Louisiana by the week of May 22, 2011. The spring flooding along the Mississippi River was increased due to excessive rainfall in the middle Mississippi River Valley over the last couple of weeks.

 

Thirty percent of the flow of the Mississippi River is diverted into the Atchafalaya River via the Old River Control Complex northeast of Simmesport, Louisiana. The increase in flow of the Mississippi River has resulted in increased quantities of water being diverted into the Atchafalaya River via the Old River Control Complex. The increase in quantity of water has resulted in increased flooding along the Atchafalaya River from the Old River Control Complex southward to Morgan City, Louisiana.

Old River Low Sill Control Structure

Low Sill Structure of the Old River Control Complex with water roaring through the open gates.

On May 7, 2011, the Low Sill Structure and Auxiliary Structure of the Old River Control Complex, carried the largest portion of the Mississippi River diverted flow into the Atchafalaya River. The water roared through the structures and the structures vibrated.

 

Pelicans floating on the water feasted on fish in the river water as it exited the structure and fishermen in boats and on the bank caught fish down stream of the structure. Pump jacks pumped petroleum products into storage tanks and service companies drilled new wells in the area around the Old River Control Complex. Tug boats and loaded barges were docked along the Old River on the Mississippi River side waiting to travel through the locks to the Atchafalaya River.

Mississippi River water rushing into the Atchafalaya Basin

Mississippi River water roaring into the Atchafalaya Basin after passing through the Old River Control Structure.

Downstream of the Old River Control Complex, east of Melville, the Morganza Spillway waited to be opened to transfer additional Mississippi River floodwaters into the Atchafalaya Basin. The Morganza Spillway has only been opened once since it was constructed. The Morganza Spillway was opened in 1973 to lower the river stage on the Mississippi River.

 

The Morganza Spillway is scheduled to be open on May 12, 2011. The Morganza Spillway in conjunction with the Old River Control Complex will transfer 50 to 54 percent of the Mississippi River floodwater flow into the Atchafalaya River and Basin. The opening of the Morganza Spillway is to lower the Mississippi River stage downstream in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas and reduce pressure on the levee system.

 

The increase in quantity of Mississippi River flood waters being transferred into the Atchafalaya River Basin will result in extensive flooding in communities throughout the Atchafalaya River and Atchafalaya Basin and in back water areas.

Morganza Floodway control structure

The Morganza Spillway waiting to be opened.

On May 7, 2011, the roads in the area of the Morganza Spillway were filled with people moving their belongings and furniture out of the area to be flooded when the Morganza Spillway is opened. Trucks were hauling sand to communities to be used to fill sandbags. People were observing the height of the water on the Mississippi River side of the spillway. Egrets were feeding along the edges of the rising waters. Combines were harvesting ripe wheat from the fields that will be flooded by the opening of the spillway.

 

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of agricultural crops will be destroyed in the fields when the Morganza Spillway is opened. These crops consist of corn (2 to 4 feet in height), sugar cane (2 to 3 feet in height), soybeans (6 inches) and unharvested ripe wheat. In addition homes and businesses will be flooded, agricultural land will be covered with river silt and seafood species in the coastal areas will be damaged by the fresh waters from the Mississippi River. The damage and destruction will be extensive and wide spread.

corn fields in the Morganza floodway

Corn fields in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Future progress reports will be issued as a result of the opening of the Morganza Spillway and the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway on May 9, 2011.

 


 

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