Bonnet Carre’ and Morganza Spillways to Open to Protect South Louisiana

This doesn’t happen very often, and you know things are really bad when both of these spillways have to be opened to protect New Orleans and the rest of south Louisiana from flooding. The Bonnet Carre’ has only been opened nine times since 1937.

Two bays of the Bonnet Carre’

Opening the bays

According to WWL-TV, the Bonnet Carre’, (pronounced “bonnie care-ray”), 26 miles upriver from New Orleans, could be opened on Monday to divert some of the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain, and all 350 bays will be opened. Again, this is unusual. The last time the spillway was opened in 2008, only 160 bays were utilized. The bays will be opened when the river flow reaches 125 million cubic feet per second. Right now, it’s flowing at 100 million. When the spillway is opened, it will prevent the river from overtopping the levees in New Orleans.

It’s nice to have a spillway when you need it, and it’s wide-open land all the way from the river to the lake in the case of the Bonnet Carre”. No houses. No people. When I grew up in that area, people used to hunt deer there. I don’t know if they still do or not. The spillway itself is surrounded by levees to keep the water in place until it gets to the lake. From there, the water will eventually filter out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, the Morganza Spillway, situated above Baton Rouge, will also likely be opened to protect the Atchafalaya Basin, according to NOLA.com. Unlike opening the gates for the Bonnet Carre’ though, opening the Morganza spillway will require careful planning, some evacuations, and sandbagging. Also, it is likely that Angola Prison will begin evacuating medically needy prisoners on Monday and the rest of the population soon after that.

This is the first time the Morganza has had to be opened since 1973 when record river levels threatened to undermine the Old River Control Structure that prevents the Mississippi River from flowing down the Atchafalaya River. If that happened, and the river diverted its course to the Gulf of Mexico, it would be very bad indeed.

At least there are spillways to open instead of having to blow up levees as has been done in Missouri and Illinois. That’s the good news. It’s never good to have to open the spillways, however, because of the environmental effects on Lake Pontchartrain in the case of the Bonnet Carre, and the effects on people and property in the case of the Morganza. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone concerned in south Louisiana right now. They, like everyone else along the Mississippi are waiting, watching, hoping, and praying for the best.


About M.J.Deare

I am a writer, actively researching topics of interest. I am also a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with a degree in English, and have a master's degree from the University of Memphis. Born in New Orleans, I lived there until moving to northwest Arkansas and from there to Memphis, Tennessee. My husband and I currently reside in The Woodlands, Texas.
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4 Responses to Bonnet Carre’ and Morganza Spillways to Open to Protect South Louisiana

  1. Pingback: Morganza Spillway Opening: Map of Inundation Projected | Beneath the Oaks

  2. Pingback: Bonnet Carre’ Spillway is Opened | Beneath the Oaks

  3. Ina Lee says:

    My son sent me this link –
    http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/05/08/michael-bays-scenario/
    and the responses to “Michael Bay’s Scenario” led me to many other links. One link gives a 53 page history of the history of SE Louisiana, the Mississippi River, the Atchafalaya, and the Corps, etc. It was printed in “The New Yorker” on 23Feb87.
    “The Control of Nature – Atchafalaya” by John McPhee. The best article I have read that explains how things developed to the point in time up to 1987. Now if I can find a similar article to bring me up to date on how we managed to avoid disasters from 1987 to today!!

    • M.J.Deare says:

      Thank you so much for the link and for the information. I too find the Old River Control structure, the spillways, and all of the geography of that area fascinating. Maybe it’s because I grew up in New Orleans and traveled the S.E. Louisiana area quite a lot, due to having friends and relatives scattered all over, and my father’s job took him to various points around there. There is no other place like it. Great people.
      I will definitely check out the link you sent. Thank you very much for taking the time to write. Here’s hoping all those man-made structures will be able to hold the river back!

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