Corps noting areas that need attention on Mississippi River levee; list is much shorter than 2011 flooding

Before the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers even reach their crests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is compiling a list of repairs that will need to be done before spring flooding occurs in a few months.

“Unfortunately, we know the next event will not be far behind this one,” said Mark Wingate, deputy district engineer for programs and project management at the Corps’ New Orleans district.

So far, it appears there could be much less damage from the current high water than the Corps faced after the flood of 2011, when repairs to the system cost an estimated $2 billion. Hundreds of millions of that money went to repair areas damaged in Louisiana.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 43.5 feet on Monday.

The Corps is monitoring 55 locations along the river levees where water seepage has been seen, but that’s much less than the 309 places monitored in 2011, Wingate said.

To help keep the flow of water past New Orleans no greater than 1.25 million cubic feet per second, the Corps opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Sunday to move some water from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain. So far, 90 of the 350 bays of the Bonnet Carre have been opened, with an approximate flow of 92,000 cubic feet per second.

In total, the Corps thinks only 165 bays will need to be opened for a total flow of 160,000 cubic feet per second to keep the flow past New Orleans at the needed level, Wingate said. In 2011, the Bonnet Carre had 300,000 cubic feet per second flowing through at the peak of the flood.

On the Atchafalaya River, a crest of 8 feet is expected to reach Morgan City on Jan. 23 and is expected to bring flooding on the river side of the floodwalls.

On Wednesday, St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert announced that anyone found parking on levees or beyond barricades would be towed in order to maintain levee integrity.

“The public is prohibited from traveling on all levee roads, crowns, slopes and bases,” according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office. “Those trespassing by riding or crossing on levees are subject to criminal penalties.”

Although there is no driving or parking allowed along levees in East Baton Rouge Parish, the Pontchartrain Levee District has not forbidden foot or bike traffic on the paved portion at the top of the levee.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.

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