High river levels could trigger the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway

Giant relief valve could operate for the third time in four years

High river levels could trigger the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For the second year in a row, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could operate the Bonnet Carre Spillway in coming days.

A final decision has not been made about the time.

“We could be seeing operation of Bonnet Carre as early as mid next week,” Corps spokesperson Rick Boyett said.

It would mark the first back-to-back openings in calendar years and the third time in four years that the Corps had opened the giant relief valve on the Mississippi River north of New Orleans.

The Spillway is designed to operate when the river flow in New Orleans reaches 1,250,000 cubic feet per second. The Carrollton Gauge read just under 15 feet Thursday morning (Feb. 21). However, the National Weather Service forecasts the river will rise another 2 feet in New Orleans by March 12.

Boyett said the river’s volume was actually more than would normally be measured at 15 feet. The surprise development follows a rapidly-changing forecast from the Weather Service due to heavy rains in the Ohio and Missisippi River valleys, Boyett said.

The Mississippi River drains all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces.

"We are seeing high flows," Boyett said. "We're seeing it more frequently. We don't know if it's cyclical."

Boyett said the Corps is conducting a study in hopes of determining why the river has run at higher levels regularly in recent years.

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