May 4, 2011 7:35 PM by Carolyn Cerda
Officials in Morgan City are preparing for what could be the highest water levels since 1973. That year, the city flooded. But, four decades later, the city is now prepared for those rising waters.
"You've got to put more water down the Atchafalaya and I can tell you what the effect will be on Morgan City, it's going to cause more of these businesses here to shut down, and put us in a flood threat," said Morgan City Mayor, Tim Matte.
Mayor Matte says preparations are underway along the Atchafalaya River in anticipation of the 9.5ft. crest which is expected in the coming weeks.
"1973 and the issues we dealt with there are on everyone's mind," said Matte. "Since 1973 though there have been several improvements made."
In 1973, the Morganza Spillway was opened to relieve water from the Mississippi River causing a 10.5ft. crest that flooded the city. But, Mayor Matte says additions and changes have been made to better secure the city from flooding. One change has been the sea wall protecting the city, which has doubled in height, to 24ft.
That flood wall has 27 flood gates that can be individually closed depending on the water levels. Mayor Matte says, the first gate will close this week, leaving those businesses and residents on the inside protected, and those businesses on the outside of the wall at risk of flooding.
"They're concerned as usual," said Councilman Larry Bergeron. "They're on the unprotected side of the wall."
Bergeron says those businesses that will be affected are used to having to deal with rising waters.
"We drain about 2/3 of the country through this area," said Bergeron.
But, both Bergeron and Matte say they're main concern will come if the Army Corps of Engineers decides to open the Morganza Spullway. It's that additional water that will worry them.
"We're facing the 9.5ft. level without the Morganza opening," said Bergeron. "So we don't have any idea what it'll get to once it opened."
"From the city standpoint, we should not have any flooding," said Matte. "But, if in fact the Morganza is utilized, there is an additional amount of water coming. What we don't know is how much water is coming."
Mayor Matte syas the city is issuing a state of emergency just in case waters rise above what's expected.