Jun 10, 2011 9:11 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Army Corps of Engineers closed another gate on the Morganza spillway north of Baton Rouge on Thursday as the threat from severe flooding of the Mississippi River diminished.
Now only one gate on the structure that diverts Mississippi water into the Atchafalaya basin remains open, said Rachel Rodi, a corps spokeswoman. At the height of the flood, 17 gates on Morganza were open.
Rodi said the Bonnet Carre spillway, which lies much closer to New Orleans, remained wide open.
Meanwhile, the corps has five dredges working to keep the river open where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Shipping restrictions are in place there and mariners have complained that the corps is not doing enough to keep ships moving through the passes quickly.
But the corps says it is doing all it can with the money it has. Congress gave the corps $73 million this year for dredging at the mouth of the Mississippi, much less than usual.
"They are working nonstop to keep the channel open," said Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the corps' Mississippi Valley Division in Vicksburg, Miss.
But he said the $73 million for dredging could run out by August at the rate money is being spent. So far, about $55 million in the fund has been spent.
The river has pushed large volumes of sand and silt down river and caused shoaling in places, pilots say.
Water levels in the river are dropping and most of the state should no longer be in flood stage by the end of the month, officials said.
A lot of work remains, though. Anderson said about 1,000 sand boils and numerous dirt slides on levees on the Mississippi River levee system will need to be fixed. Also, the large amounts of sediment deposited in ports and harbors will need to be cleaned out, he said.