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Bonnet Carre Spillway Opens Again

by Hunter Dawkins

Thursday afternoon at a press conference, the Army Corps of Engineers suggested the Bonnet Carre Spillway reopen next Tuesday at 10 a.m and did on Friday with the threat of river floods.  This is the first time ever that the Bonnet Carre Spillway would be open twice in one calendar year.

“The opening of the Bonnie Carré Spillway is having a tremendous negative affect on our Coast seafood industry,” said Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United Executive Director Ryan Bradley.  “Re-opening up the spillway for the second time this year is unprecedented and will further exacerbate the negative impacts we are already witnessing.”

The Bonnet Carre Spillway is a flood control operation in the Lower Mississippi Valley, which allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico.

According to historical research, The Bonnet Carré Spillway consists of two basic components: a control structure along the east bank of the Mississippi River and a floodway that transfers the diverted flood waters to the lake.  The control structure is a mechanically-controlled concrete weir that extends for over a mile and a half parallel to the river.

When opened, the control structure allows overflow volume to flow into Lake Pontchartrain. The lake’s opening to the gulf is sufficient to absorb and dissipate any conceivable volume of flood flow.

In a recent study by Mississippi State University, the Mississippi oyster industry underwent severe economic hardships due to the massive destruction and frequent closures of the state public reefs associated with natural and technological disasters since 2005.

The absence of access to public reefs caused the shutdown of oyster harvesting activities and associated processing and distribution activities.  Direct losses in oyster harvesting associated with the prolonged Bonnet Carre Spillway opening in 2011 ranged from 80% to 100% of the baseline average commercial annual landings in 2002-2004.

The cumulative values of commercial oyster landings lost in 2011-2014 reached up to $46.0 million. Negative economic impacts of the prolonged BCS opening consisted of the reduction in economic output by $58 million, between 145 to 324 jobs lost per year and decline in labor income by more than $21 million in 2011-2014.

“Shrimp, crab, oysters and fish production have been at very low levels since the spillway was first opened it back in February,” stated Bradley.

Preliminary graphs of dissolved oxygen and conductivity show the influence of a large freshwater influx and subsequent recovery.

Undoubtedly, this will affect the people who make a living on the waters of the Mississippi Sound.

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