A bump of water coming down the Mississippi River has prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start conducting twice-a-week levee inspections along the lower Mississippi River.
The inspections started this week and will continue twice a week until water levels at the Carrollton gauge in New Orleans drop below 11 feet, according to a press release from the corps.
Currently, the inspection area is on the east bank from Baton Rouge to Bohemia and on the west bank from Donaldsonville to Venice, although that could be expanded in the future, said Ricky Boyett, spokesman with the corps in New Orleans.
Although water levels in the Mississippi River are on the rise, the extended forecast from the National Weather Service River Forecast Center doesn’t show levels getting above the official flood zone for Baton Rouge or New Orleans.
In Baton Rouge, the flood stage is set at 35 feet, but forecasts show that river levels will reach 34.5 feet on May 10 before the water levels start to go down again.
Flood stage is essentially the level of the river that would go over the natural banks of the river if the levees weren’t in place.
Levees under the East Baton Rouge city-parish jurisdiction extend from about 1.5 miles north of the Interstate 10 bridge to just north of LSU and protect up to 46 or 47 feet of flooding on the river.
The rise in river levels will be significantly lower than what occurred in the spring of 2011 when water levels at Baton Rouge rose to 45 feet. After that flood, two areas in Baton Rouge were targeted for additional levee work at the riverfront in downtown Baton Rouge and at Duncan Point south of LSU. Both of those projects have been completed, Boyett said.
Jim Ferguson, East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public Works flood plain manager, said in an email that the city-parish has been watching the river levels and with the current forecast predicted to be below the flood stage of 35 feet in Baton Rouge, there are no immediate concerns.
“However, as a responsible measure we performed a visual inspection last week, and will again this week and the following weeks until the forecast indicates the river to drop back below our Action Stage of 30 feet,” he wrote.
In New Orleans, the flood stage is at 17 feet but as of Monday, river levels were measured at 11.7 feet. That level is expected to rise to about 14 feet on May 11 before the water levels start to recede, according to the National Weather Service River Forecast Center.
Any work that could affect the river or associated levees, including the driving of heavy loads over the levees or subsurface work within 1,500 feet of the levee, is not allowed when the river level reaches 11 feet and is rising in New Orleans. Any work permit holders are asked to call the local levee district for more information, the corps said.