Bonnet Carrè Spillway may be opened this week as Mississippi River continues to rise

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Photo by Jennifer LaVista/U.S. Geological Survey.

(WXXV) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could be forced to open the Bonnet Carrè Spillway by the end of the week.

Under the 1928 Flood Control Act, the Bonnet Carrè Spillway is to be opened when the Mississippi River reaches a flow rate of 1.25 million cubic feet per second at the Carrollton gauge at New Orleans.

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Minor flood stage for the river at the Carrollton gauge is considered to be 17 feet. Forecasts from the National Weather Service project river levels could reach 17 feet by Thursday evening and 17.3 feet by Saturday.

At 17.3 feet, the flow of the river could exceed the 1.25 million cubic feet per second threshold.

Opening the spillway would allow floodwaters from the river to safely pass the New Orleans area, by diverting them to Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi Sound.

If the flood control structure were to open, it is estimated that between 150 and 160 of the 350 bays would be opened for three to four weeks.

In 2019, trillions of gallons of freshwater polluted with fertilizer were released from the Bonnet Carrè Spillway. Last year’s prolonged opening is believed to have killed scores of dolphins and sea turtles, while severely damaging area oyster beds.

This would be the third year in a row opening the spillway.