Corps closes remainder of spillway bays, but logs remain a problem

Corps closes remainder of spillway bays, but logs remain a problem

NORCO, LA (WVUE) - The Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up the closure of more than 200 bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, opened last month to relieve high water on the Mississippi River.

The closure marks a new phase of the flood fight, but the river's threat isn't over yet. On board a Corps airboat, you can see that a full closure won't be as easy as just dropping in the pins.

"We got between 20 and 30 blockages in the various bays," said Army Corps spillway manager Chris Brantley.

Huge logs from as far north as Minnesota are blocking many of the 210 bays that were opened over the last three weeks. The river level at the Carrollton Gage has dropped 1.8 feet in the last week, but it's got to drop more  for the logs to be removed.

"Once the water recedes we will cut those blockages out and replace the needles," Brantley said.

The lower river level means the Corps has now returned to phase one of their flood fight. That means twice weekly inspections of levees between Baton Rouge and Venice, with construction activities allowed near the levees once more.

"With phase one, construction can be authorized with a waiver," said Matt Roe, with the Corps.

As soon as crews are finished, they will have to go on standby once again. That's because there still hasn't been a spring thaw in the Midwest.

"We're not sure what's the summer's going to hold for the river," Roe said.

Corps officials have tagged about 30 invasive species, since the control structure was opened, allowing river water into the floodway 23 days ago.

"Big head carp, silver carp, common carp and grass carp, and we tagged each one of those and put it back into the spillway," said Brantley.

On Tuesday they will be back at again, looking for rare pallid sturgeon, as they close another chapter in the history of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

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