Barry Guaranteed to Cause Mississippi River to Swell, Likely Further Delaying Closing of Bonnet Carre Spillway

Mississippi River Swells and Threatens Louisiana Levees

Flood fears rise in parts of Louisiana as tropical storm Barry continues to develop in the Gulf of Mexico.

After months of record setting rain fall, the Mississippi river has been at flood stage in Louisiana longer than any other time in history.

The lower Mississippi river in Louisiana saw a continued flooding event since February.

The Army Corps of Engineers is confident the levee system that protects New Orleans from the kind of flooding that happened during Katrina will hold during this storm.

The Mississippi river is currently expected to crest after the storm at 19 feet—just under the 20-25 feet of protection the levee system offers.

The bad news, Tropical Storm Barry is threatening as much as 20 inches of rain and dangerous storm surges throughout the region, and as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is giving a gloomy forecast considering the precedent Barry may set, telling reporters Thursday,  “If Tropical Storm Barry becomes a hurricane as we fully expect it will — this will be the first time we had a hurricane make landfall in Louisiana while the Mississippi River was at flood stage.”

What is predictable – Barry will bring more rain to an already water-logged region. The Mississippi River is already 8 feet feet above normal. Barry could drive it to its highest level since 1950.

What this likely means for Mississippi once Barry passes through – with the river level guaranteed to rise, there will be more flooding along the Mississippi River. A few weeks ago, we reported on how U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mississippi River Valley Authority and other leaders in the decision making process when it comes to opening and closing the Bonnet Carre Spillway had said they would consider closing the still-open Bonnet Carre Spillway once the river went down to a certain level, even estimating that could be as early as the second week of July. With Barry’s arrival, their decision to close the spillway could be further delayed, meaning trillions of gallons of freshwater will continue gushing into the Mississippi Sound, driving down the salinity of coast waters, along with Mississippi’s business and economy, which depend so heavily, especially here in South Mississippi, on fishing, seafood, restaurants and tourism. As we’ve continually covered, hundreds of dead dolphins and endangered sea turtles have washed ashore since the spillway’s opening, and fishermen tell News 25 the late start to Mississippi’s shrimping season this year has put them behind, not to mention the oyster harvest is down more than 80 percent this year in the Mississippi Sound, in the coastal waters right off the shoreline.

Mississippi leaders have tirelessly led the charge to request a “seat at the table” when it comes to deciding when to open and close the Bonnet Carre Spillway because no Mississippi leaders are currently involved in this process. Mississippi leaders question why they aren’t part of this process considering Mississippi takes the brunt of the Bonnet Carre Spillway’s opening, since the spillway, located in Southeastern Louisiana, dumps the excess freshwater into the Mississippi Sound. State leaders also question why the Morganza Spillway, further north, has not been opened more to help alleviate flooding. Mississippi suffers much less adverse effects when the Morganza Spillway is opened, although tens of thousands of acres of farm land in Louisiana are flooded when this spillway is opened.

Mississippi leaders are hoping their recent talks with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mississippi River Valley Authority leaders will lead to Mississippi having representation on the spillway opening decisions.

We will continue to keep you up to date on this critical issue.

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