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Butte LaRose residents and other concerned citizens crowded into the fire station last week to hear a report from the Army Corps of Engineers and parish officials about the planned Morganza Spillway opening.(Sally Angelle)

Officials ease ‘worse case’ fears of Morganza opening

Citing a revised forecast that the overtopping of the Morganza Spillway will occur later than previously forecast, the Corps of Engineers has announced that the opening of the structure is now scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 9.
On May 28, soon after the original opening date of June 2 was announced, a meeting was held at the Butte LaRose fire station where an overflow crowd turned out to hear current flooding projections for Butte LaRose and the surrounding area.
Parish, Corps of Engineers and Emergency Preparedness officials told residents that, for now, no evacuation order is forthcoming.
Parish President Chester Cedars told the worried crowd that the probability of disastrous consequences for the third-ever Morganza Spillway opening have diminished somewhat.
“I’m very optimistic that we will get through this crisis,” he said.
And Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyette said property that did not flood in 2011 would probably not flood this year either.
Many questions involved the likelihood of a power cut-off. A SLEMCO representative responded that an area-wide cut-off is not contemplated at this time, but the decision could change depending on conditions.
He cautioned residents that if the water level reaches the meter base of their home they should cut off their own power immediately.
One resident asked why the spillway opening did not start earlier. A Corps representative said multiple trigger points for opening are written in federal law and nothing can be done until the triggers are reached.
The controlling factor in this case, he said, is the projection that Mississippi River levels would eventually overtop the structure. If that happened, it would be too late to begin opening gates.
Boyette said that a federal study is underway to review the protocols for operation of Morganza and other flood-control structures and revise them if it is deemed appropriate.

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