Morganza Spillway opening could cost crops

Crawfish may be washed out, as well

Don Ames
May 23, 2019 - 7:22 pm

Louisiana's Agriculture Commissioner, Mike Strain, says that if the Morganza Spillway has to be opened, it would wipe out crops on about 25,000 acres of land. Strain says he has warned farmers to move equipment and livestock out of the area.

Strain spoke Thursday at a news conference with Gov. John Bel Edwards and other officials.

Edwards said the spillway may be opened in early June because of the rising Mississippi River. And, he says it could be a lengthy opening, possible lasting well into July.

That means water will be released into the Atchalfalya Basin raising the concern for flooding in several parishes. 

If the Army Corps of Engineers opens the floodway west of Baton Rouge, it would only the third time in history. Edwards says it would pass about 60,000 cubic feet of water per second. 

"In 2011 the last time it was opened it was 300,000 cubic feet per second. The particular challenge we are having is that the ground in the spillway is already completely saturated and the water levels are already high."

If rain elsewhere reaches current forecasts, the spillway would be opened to keep the river from overtopping it and making it impossible to operate. 

Strain says the farm crop may not be able to recover.

"We expect, probably, a total loss of all of the crops that have been planted and potentially the loss of the entire season."

Crawfish may also be washed out in the flooding and consumed by predators before they can be caught and sold.

If the spillway is opened authorities will decide whether to sink a barge in Bayou Chene in St. Mary Parish to create a floodgate and protect five parishes from flooding. Edwards says he is making a request for a federal emergency declaration to offset possible costs like sinking the barge…

"Whether it is employing the dams along Highway 70, the sandbagging costs, costs of pumps and those sorts of things."

Edwards says a final decision to open the spillway is expected by May 28th.

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