With River Falling, Corps Ends Phase II Flood Fight

The long-awaited fall on the Lower Mississippi River is underway in Louisiana, with the New Orleans Engineer District officially deactivating its Phase II flood fight July 29 and completing the closure of the Bonnet Carré Spillway two days earlier on July 27.

On August 8, the river in Southeast Louisiana was continuing to drop. In Baton Rouge, the river was at 33 feet and falling. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the Mississippi River was at about 12.6 feet and falling. The last time the Carrollton Gage in New Orleans read 12.5 feet was the first of the year. The river has been above 10 feet in New Orleans since mid-October 2018.

“This flood fight began in late October 2018 when the Mississippi River rose above 11 feet at the Carrollton Gage, and in February, Phase II was initiated when the river exceeded 15 feet,” said Ricky Boyett, a Corps spokesman, in a statement.

Phase II flood fight calls for daily inspections on the full length of river levees. Phase I flood fight, triggered when the river is between 11 and 15 feet, includes twice-weekly inspections.

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“The increased patrols help to ensure that the Army Corps can respond quickly to any problem areas that develop along the levee system because of the elevated water levels,” Boyett said.

While the river is higher than 11 feet in New Orleans, the Corps restricts construction and subsurface work within 1,500 feet of the levee, along with the movement of heavy loads over the levee and disturbance of grass. The Corps considers waivers on an individual basis.

This has been a year of firsts and superlatives within the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys and along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. More rain has fallen in that area this year than any of the 124 years since the National Weather Service began keeping records. Flood records—many dating to 1927—were broken up and down the system.

The two openings in 2019 at Bonnet Carré—a first—lasted a combined 123 days. The next longest operation of the Bonnet Carré occurred in 1973 and lasted 75 days.

The Mississippi River, though falling, is falling rather slowly. The current forecast from the National Weather Service calls for the Carrollton Gage to drop below 11 feet the second half of August, with a drop below 10 feet not anticipated within the Weather Service’s 28-day forecast.