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May 4, 2011 11:52 PM by Shawn Kline

Morganza Spillway could be opened for first time since 1973

Heavy rain up north brings the Mississippi River to record levels and the Atchafalaya Basin Levee District is drawing up a game plan in case there is flooding in the basin.
There are places along the basin that could be underwater if the Morganza Spillway is opened for the first time since 1973, which could happen as early as next week.

In the mean-time, the water along the Mississippi rises.

"The worry is at about a six on a scale of one to ten," St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said.

Guidroz says if the water rises much further, the US Army Corps of Engineers will divert some of it into the Atchafalaya Basin, putting St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary Parishes at risk.

"(The Atchafalaya River) is going to be at its maximum level (later this month)," Guidroz said. "That meets or exceeds the 1927 flood level so am I concerned? Yes."

Already, parts of the Mississippi River bank are flooded. Trees sprouting up from the flowing water. Corps Engineers say this is 70% of the river's capacity but once it reaches 100%, they'll open the spillway, washing any excess water down the basin.

"Right now, the predictions are real close." Ted Elts of the US Army Corps of Engineers says, "it might be necessary to open the Morganza."

Elts says diverting the water has proven to keep places like Baton Rouge and New Orleans dry but it could put parts of places along the basin like Morgan City under water.

"If you're inside the floodway, I think you'd be at risk," Elts said.

If the spillway is opened, the water could rise anywhere from four to six feet. However, engineers say if you're protected by the levees, you should be okay.



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