NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Mississippi River at New Orleans has begun what forecasters expect to be a slow retreat from banks.
The river, which normally crests for the year in late spring, has been running at unusually high levels in recent weeks.
The Carrollton gauge read 15.5 feet at 6 p.m. Thursday, down .14 of a foot over a 24 hour period.
Although the flood stage is technically 17 feet, the levees provide protection to 20 feet above sea level.
The river's power is on display downstream from New Orleans on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.
In the Bohemia Spillway, the river chewed through its banks during high water a few years ago, made a loop around an old, abandoned control structure and reconnected with a man made waterway.
The new portion of the channel has been steadily expanding in recent weeks and may be as deep as 40 feet, according to Vincent Frelich, Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Management Director.
"I was down here about 2 months ago and I want to say it's 25 percent bigger than what it was before," Frelich said.
Last week, the rushing water chewed away enough land to take down a power line, knocking out electrical service for a time to customers on both sides of the river.
Thursday, Entergy crews were on site repairing and repositioning the lines.
The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, which monitors the site, dubbed it Mardi Gras Pass and suggested the river might be providing the state a sediment diversion project for free.
However, commercial fishermen bitterly opposed to the introduction of fresh water through an uncontrolled diversion, have pressured local political leaders to close it.
The Plaquemines Parish Council has gone on record, asking that the pass be closed.
However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has stated it lacks the authority to close the waterway unless it interferes with navigation or adversely affects river levees.
The Corps says neither of those conditions have been met.