[StBernard] Army Corps of Engineers gets busy on flood projects as river levels drop

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Jan 16 20:02:22 EST 2012

Army Corps of Engineers gets busy on flood projects as river levels drop

Published: Monday, January 16, 2012, 7:00 AM

By Matt Scallan, The Times-Picayune

Dropping water levels in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers will end
construction restrictions near the Mississippi River levee, according to the
Army Corps of Engineers, but the agency is busy preparing for the
possibility of another flood this spring by making $802 million in repairs
to the levee system. The corps activated its Phase 1 flood fight on Dec. 13
as levels rose above 11 feet at the Carrollton gauge in New Orleans.

At that level, levee inspections were stepped up and construction activity
in the vicinity of the levee was curtailed.

"Typically, high-water season occurs in the spring, but heavy rainfall in
the Mississippi River Valley has slowly increased water levels. Although the
rivers are still significantly above average, they are now beginning to
drop," corps spokeswoman Rachel Rodi said.

Despite the high levels, no significant levee damage was reported, a corps
news release said.

The high water caused some delay in repair work on the levee systems that
were damaged during the "monumental" 2011 floods, corps officials said.

The high winter rise delayed repairs to levee systems caused by the
flooding, which led to the opening of the Bonnet Carre and Morganza

Flood repair work continues in the New Orleans district's area of
responsibility, with work under way or completed at several projects in
Louisiana including revetment work in downtown New Orleans, Chalmette, the
Morganza Control Structure, the Baton Rouge riverfront and Duncan Point near
the Louisiana State University campus.

"It is vitally important, not only to south Louisiana but to the nation,
that we repair damages" to the levee systems of Mississippi River and its
tributaries, said Col. Ed Fleming, New Orleans district commander. "With the
safety of the public our top priority, we will work efficiently and
effectively to repair as much of the system as we can while at the same time
preparing our flood-fight defenses for the 2012 high water season."

There is some chance that the river could be unusually high in the spring
flood season because of wet weather in the Midwest last year caused by the
La Nina weather pattern, said Kai Roth, a senior hydrologist at the Long
Range Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell.

"What happens is that systems start coming from the Southwest toward the
Northeast. That keeps us dry down here, but the Ohio Valley is wetter than
normal. If that occurs, there could be flooding again this spring," he said.

But Roth there has been less rainfall in that region recently.

"Maybe that will hold out," he said. "Who knows? We're months away from
springtime, so a lot could happen."

Matt Scallan can be reached at mscallan at timespicayune.com or 985.652.0953.

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