Governor’s call for increased water flow into Atchafalaya Basin approved, will support fisheries, Basin health and coast (updated)
By ZACHARY FITZGERALD
BATON ROUGE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to temporarily increase the water flow by at least 3 percent from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin will have minimal, if any, impact in the Morgan City area, said Port of Morgan City Executive Director Jerry Hoffpauir.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a request by Gov. Bobby Jindal to temporarily increase water flow through the Old River Control Structure into the Atchafalaya Basin from 30 percent to at least 33 percent to offset an anticipated drop in Basin water levels that could create significant adverse ecologic impacts to the area and economic impacts to the state, according to a news release from Jindal’s office.
Most of the sediment carried to Morgan City comes from the Red River and not the Mississippi River, Hoffpauir said. However, when the governor’s office and corps checked with the Port of Morgan City before deciding to increase the water flow, Hoffpauir said, “My big concern to them was we have enough trouble getting funding now to handle the sediment we have, how are we going to handle more sediment?”
Jindal requested that the percentage of total Mississippi River flow into the Atchafalaya Basin through the corps-operated Old River Control Structure, normally 30 percent of the total Mississippi River flow, be increased from 30 percent to at least 33 percent to help sustain the Atchafalaya Basin, in accordance with the operating rules that allow temporary deviations from the standard 70-30 split under certain conditions, the release stated.
“The management of water resources in Louisiana must be more dynamic to reflect the rapidly changing conditions of our coast, navigation industry, floods, Atchafalaya Basin and other needs,” Jindal said. “Our ports and waterways support tremendous amounts of commerce like the transport of exports and seafood that benefit our economy and our people, and our coastal wetlands are the first line of defense against hurricanes. These must be protected. This increased water flow will help ensure these valuable assets are preserved for our sons and daughters.”
Analysis from state DNR’s Atchafalaya Basin Program staff indicates that Atchafalaya Basin water levels are likely to drop prematurely below average, based on records from 1959 through 2012, creating a situation in which the water quality could be impaired, the release stated.