Dozens gather to watch spillway opening

NORCO, LA (WVUE) - The Army Corps of Engineers today ratcheted up their flood fight on the Mississippi River. They began opening flood control bays at the Bonnet Carre spillway.

Army Corps workers began pulling the pins on 8 bays around 10 this morning drawing scores of people who turned out to see what many consider to be history.

With airboats on standby in case a worker falls in corps workers began opening eight of the 350 flood control bays to relieve pressure on a rising river.

"I've never seen this before it's amazing," said Nedra Holder of Kenner.

The Bonnet Carre spillway which was recently designated a historic engineering structure was built shortly after the great flood of 1927 and again today was put into action protecting New Orleans and its suburbs.

"The Mississippi River and its tributaries projects,  protect a population of 4.5 million people you can look around and see the chemical infrastructure and protects a crop valued over $51 billion," said Maj Gen Richard Kaiser with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Dozens turned out to witness something that has only happened 12 times since 1931.

"She dropped off friends at the airport and i said perfect i'm going to see it again it's my third one to see," said Bernie Ralston of  Kenner.

Also watching the opening is the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation which says the opening  could cause algae blooms in the lake in the next few weeks.

"The conditions for a bloom are like a recipe water is one but you need it to warm up and come conditions," said John Lopez with the Lake Pontchartrain.

As workers pulled pins much of the day corps engineers say the Bonnet Carre appears fine.

"The structure is in great shape,  it's 90 but it's doing the job it was built for," said Chris Brantley with the Corps.

" This is classic they put a lot of work into this it works," said Nedra Holder of Kenner.

For now Corps officials say the opening will likely last about three weeks. They anticipate needing to open about half of the 350 control bays, but that could change depending on conditions upriver.