Corps begins closing gates on Bonnet Carre Spillway; could have all gates shut by Feb. 2

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began closing bays at the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Monday as the water level along the Mississippi River continues to fall slowly.

About 10 of the bays were expected to be closed Monday with 200 bays remaining open to keep water flowing past New Orleans at no more than 1.25 million cubic feet per second. That flow is roughly equal to about a 17-foot river stage in New Orleans.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway, which diverts Mississippi River water into Lake Pontchartrain during times of high water to relieve stress on downriver levees, was opened on Jan. 10. In total, 210 of its 350 bays were opened as the river kept rising because of heavy December rains upriver.

This was only the second time the spillway has had to be opened in January and only the 11th time it has been used since it was completed after the historic 1927 flood.

On Monday, the river stage in Baton Rouge was at 42.4 feet, down from a high of 43.3 feet. In New Orleans, the river was at 16.5 feet, and it will likely remain at that level for a while as the bays are gradually closed.

In the meantime, the Corps and local levee districts will continue monitoring river levees daily to look for any problems until the water falls below 15 feet in New Orleans. Long-range river forecasts indicate that could happen around Feb. 2.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.

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