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LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Governor Jindal Says US Army Corps Decision to Open Morganza Spillway Could Come Today, State Preparing
Public Information Office
, (225) 379-1232, FAX: (225) 379-1863
Monday, May 09, 2011
BATON ROUGE – Governor Jindal today held a UCG meeting with state agency heads and federal officials including the Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service and the US Coast Guard to prepare for the rising Miss. River levels and the Corps’ potential decision to open the Morganza Spillway.
The Governor began the press conference today by thanking six fire chiefs that led search and rescue operations in Alabama following the deadly tornadoes there: Chief Charles Parent of New Orleans FD – led Task Force 1, Chief Ed Smith of Baton Rouge FD – led Task Force 2, Chief Brian Crawford of Shreveport FD – led Task Force 3, Chief Eddie Laborde of Pineville FD – led Regional Response Team 6, and Chief Jimmie Bryant of Monroe FD – led Regional Response Team 8.
The Governor said, “On Monday, May 2nd, 130 of our first responders deployed at the request of Alabama officials to assist in rescue and recovery operations in Tuscaloosa. The mission of the Louisiana USAR Teams was to conduct secondary searches in a dense residential and commercial area of Tuscaloosa. These teams informed many family members who were waiting for information on their missing loved ones. Our Louisiana teams were able to search and clear a three-square-mile area, using heavy earth moving equipment to clear debris. We created USAR teams in 2008 under the Office of the State Fire Marshal and allocated $1.4 million for the initial purchase of equipment. We have heard many great reports from their work in Alabama and were able to thank them as a state Unified Command Group today.”
Miss. River Update
The Governor said the Army Corps briefed state officials today on the inundation levels expected up in North Louisiana and they said they expect those whose property was flooded in 2008 to be flooded again due to the rising river levels this year. Maps are available on the Corps’ Vicksburg District website (
The Coast Guard said they have closed vessel traffic around the Bonnet Carre. In Baton Rouge, they have established a traffic control point. They are also instituting tow size reductions and instituting vessel control restrictions on speed, wake and proximity to the levees. The Coast Guard has also asked local law enforcement to notify them if any vessels are traveling too close to the levee so they can pull them away.
Morganza Spillway Update
Governor Jindal said, “Col. Ed Flemming, New Orleans District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, officially requested the Mississippi River Commission in Vicksburg to partially open the Morganza Spillway over the weekend. We know Army Corps Gen. Walsh is going to the Bonnet Carre Spillway today and Corps Col. Flemming is set to meet with him on his request to open Morganza, meaning there could be a final decision by the Corps on operating this structure as soon as today.
“The Corps also released Inundation Maps outlining possible areas that will be impacted by the operation of the Morganza Floodway. They expect the height of the water to reach between five and upwards of 25 feet above ground elevation, causing flooding through many southern portions of our state. Today, we are meeting with local officials in and around Krotz Springs, Butte La Rose and Morgan City who are expected to be impacted, and we are preparing all state agencies to assist in the evacuation of areas that must be evacuated and flood fighting and response operations as needed to assist citizens and protect property.
“LANG deployed senior leaders to assist parishes directly threatened by the possible opening of the Morganza Spillway last Friday. In conjunction with the Louisiana State Police and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, these teams coordinated with Sheriffs and Emergency Directors through the weekend to ensure that Louisiana National Guard efforts are synchronized with parish efforts to notify all residents within the areas threatened by the possible opening of the Morganza Spillway.
“The Louisiana National Guard is mobilizing an additional 175 Guardsmen to prepare for the possible opening of the Morganza Spillway – bringing the total Guardsmen activated to around 400 by the end of today. These additional Guardsmen will augment parish efforts to inspect levees and local law enforcement efforts to conduct “door to door” notifications.
“In support of St. Mary Parish this weekend, LANG also transported 87 pallets of HESCO baskets from the East Jefferson Levee District to St. Mary Parish. This morning, we have Guardsmen and equipment on-site to support parish efforts to construct approximately 13,000 feet of flood protection barrier in Amelia and Morgan City. In St. Martin Parish, the Sheriff has begun notifying residents who may be impacted by the possible opening of Morganza by putting 879 voluntary evacuation notices on the doors of homes in the Butte La Rose area.
“We have asked the Coast Guard for air assets from Mobile, AL that can patrol and pinpoint any people who remain on the ground after possible evacuations. The Coast Guard has specific equipment that will be important to this effort.
“Our first priority is absolutely the safety of residents and our second priority is to protect property wherever we can.”
The Governor said if the Spillway is opened, DOTD will close the portion of La. 1 that crosses the Morganza Spillway and perform an inspection of the structure prior to allowing traffic to flow. DOTD, the Corp and State Police are developing a traffic management plan to ensure the least amount of disruption to the traveling public. DOTD has placed "No Parking Signs" on the spillway to prevent parking and discourage motorists from stopping to view the water flow.
Additionally, based on the potential opening of the Spillway, the U.S. 190 Morganza Spillway bridge repair project is on hold and the mats placed for equipment to access the work site are being removed from the floodway. DOTD will monitor state roadways that have been identified as being affected by the possible opening of the Spillway and close roads as appropriate.
On Friday, DNR’s Office of Conservation sent notice by email and conducted a conference call with oil and gas operators in the Atchafalaya Basin to alert them to the potential opening of the Morganza Spillway.
On Saturday, after receiving the projected inundation footprint outside the Basin from the Corps, DNR distributed an email alert to operators within the footprint notifying them of the potential for rising waters as predicted by the Corps if the Morganza were opened. This area outside the Atchafalaya Basin includes over 1,750 wells and more than 135 operators. Safety is a top concern on these structures as the Spillway is opened.
DNR’s Fuel Team has been activated and identified two refineries that could be significantly impacted by high water. For the large refinery on the Mississippi River, this could result in reducing operating capacity to 75 percent for two weeks and then further significant reductions in operating capacity.
DNR’s Office of Coastal Management is working closely with the Corps, St. Mary Parish, the Levee District, OCPR and others on an Emergency Use Authorization to locate and sink a barge on Bayou Shane to mitigate back water flooding when the Morganza Spillway is opened. They received verbal approval of this request today.
Request for Federal Assistance
The Governor said, “Last Friday, Louisiana was granted a partial Disaster Declaration allowing us to ask the federal government for resources, but not paying for state resources. We are still requesting a full declaration for emergency protective measures, which would mean state expenses are reimbursed at 25 percent cost share.
“The US Department of Defense also denied our request for Title 32 status to fund the operations of the Louisiana National Guard on Friday and we are forming an appeal to seek this funding again, as the Guard is an essential part of our evacuation and flooding response plans. Especially now that we have a Presidential Disaster Declaration, we are appealing to the President that it is critical to use the Guard in responding to not just the Miss. River flooding, but also in the response to the operation of the Morganza Spillway.
“To date, the state has already spent $3.8 million in preparing for and responding to potential flooding and we expect this amount to increase significantly as the Miss. River continues to rise.”
This morning, the Louisiana National Guard deployed an LNO team to Lafourche Parish and now have LNO teams supporting 17 affected parishes in order to coordinate National Guard support to Parish efforts. In addition to Parish LNOs, the Louisiana National Guard also has a liaison team embedded with the Corps of Engineers.
LANG has Liaison Teams deployed to 17 Parishes and also a Liaison Team embedded with the Corps of Engineers to coordinate National Guard support to Parish efforts to prevent flooding.
• Last Thursday: West Carroll, East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Concordia
• By last Friday: Assumption, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Iberia, Iberville, LaSalle, Point Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Terrebonne.
• Yesterday: Lafourche LNO team.
The Army Corps has also request LANG helicopters to fly the levees and do daily inspections.
Previous missions LANG is still supporting, include:
• LANG is continuing to support the Department of Corrections at Angola
• LANG is continuing to support the threatened northeast Parishes and the 5th Levee District by monitoring levees, distributing equipment, and fortifying levees.
DOTD has more than 74 staff members and 58 trucks and equipment actively deployed in flood prevention efforts.
DOTD and CPRA are requesting the Coast Guard make appropriate river traffic restrictions to ensure the integrity of the state’s bridges and levee systems. Because of the high waters, both the state's bridge and levee systems are more vulnerable to marine vessel impact.
An additional seven DOTD staff members have been reassigned to assist levee districts and the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 24-hour operation of levee inspections from the Arkansas line to the Old River Control Center in Lettsworth. This brings the total investment of DOTD personnel to 15. They began inspections on Friday, May 6.
DOTD ordered an addition 11,880 linear feet of Hesco baskets on top of its previous order of 18,000 feet of baskets to place in reserve should the state need them. The Town of Vidialia already requested and received 4,500 linear feet of this reserve over the weekend. Shipments of baskets are being received continuously, with the total delivery scheduled to be delivered early next week.
Bonnet Carre Spillway: The Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened today and DOTD will close the right shoulder westbound on I-10 over the Bonnet Carre Spillway Bridge. DOTD crews will make adjustments to the equipment camera controller cabinets in an effort to continuously monitor the water flow’s effect on the bridge. This closure will allow all vehicles to pass through the construction zone. DOTD encourages motorists traveling on I-10 and U.S. 61 over the Spillway to pay attention to the road and not drive distracted by the flow of water. Additionally, “No Stopping on Bridge” signs have been put in place on I-10 and U.S. 61 and State Police and local law enforcement agencies are increasing patrols to discourage individuals from stopping to view water from the bridge.
In East Carroll Parish - DOTD has hauled approximately 8,200 cubic yards of sand in support of levee fortification efforts. DOTD has 44 trucks actively hauling sand from Perryville (near Bastrop) to be distributed throughout East Carroll Parish.
In Tensas Parish - La. 3078 is closed due to flooding on the riverside of the levee. In Newellton, DOTD hauled approximately 4,000 cubic yards of sand in support of levee fortification efforts.
In Madison Parish - This week, DOTD is scheduled to deliver 50 barricades to Madison Parish.
In Iberville Parish - Based on high waters and the need to utilize the highest ramp level on the dock, DOTD is placing vehicle restrictions on the Plaquemine Ferry. No trailers, no more than two axles, and no more than six wheels will be allowed to cross on the ferry. Large trucks and trailers should use the Interstate 10 Mississippi River Bridge. Also, the White Castle Ferry is now closed. It will resume service once the river waters subside.
In Jefferson/Orleans/St. Bernard Parishes - The La. 18 drainage improvement project has been put on hold and will resume when river level lowers to 11 ft at the Carrollton gauge. Additionally, projects related to fender repairs on the Crescent City Connection Bridge and the repairs to the Chalmette Ferry Landing have been put on hold, pending the recession of water levels.
The Governor said he went to Angola last Friday to review the Department’s evacuation plans for inmates there. He said, “We want to make sure they have thought through possible scenarios in the event that the Angola facility is impacted by flooding. We also want to ensure that the Department is coordinating with Sheriffs’ Offices and lending them any support they need if they have to evacuate or relocate prisoners at the parish level.”
DOTD’s six-man survey crew has been redeployed to Angola Penitentiary to obtain further measurements along the facility’s levee tops. The crew will also be sent to Hunt Correctional facility to verify levee elevation marks. Proper levee elevations help inform flood protection leadership as to the exact level of rising waters.
On Friday, DOC acquired ten buses from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman for use during offender evacuations from Louisiana State Penitentiary. Phase I evacuations began today and operations continue smoothly there at this time.
Due to the flooding situation and LSP offender evacuations, the Department has suspended many routine functions until further notice, including:
• All visitation at Louisiana State Penitentiary and Elayn Hunt Correctional Center is cancelled;
• All non-emergency medical trips are cancelled;
• Offender court hearings (unless parish facilities provide transportation) are cancelled starting May 9 – June 17, 2011. (This does not include the Jeffrey Clark trial currently underway in W. Feliciana.)
DOC Secretary Le Blanc also met Friday in Vidalia with the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Col. Mike Edmondson to discuss worst-case scenarios for those parish jails that may be impacted by potential flooding in Northeast Louisiana as well as those parishes potentially impacted by the possible opening of the Morganza Spillway and associated backwater flooding.
DHH alerted nursing homes about the risk of flooding along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. 11 nursing homes have been identified as being at high risk and six at moderate risk for potential flooding. Camelot Leisure Living; Ferriday (Concordia Parish) evacuated 59 residents last week to Nursing Homes in Union and Bienville parishes.
DHH alerted Louisiana’s hospitals about the risk of flooding along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. 16 Hospitals have been identified as being at high risk and one at moderate risk for potential flooding. Promise Hospital in Vidalia has completed evacuation of its patients to other hospitals in Office of Public Health Region 6 and Natchez, Mississippi.
Those facilities that DHH identifies as “at risk” are developing evacuation plans in coordination with DHH and many are moving patients onto other floors or different facilities in the event they do become flooded. DHH is also monitoring the drinking water system in Vidalia, which is in close proximity to rising water levels.
The Governor encouraged anyone interested in volunteering with the Red Cross to go to RedCross.Org, put in your zip code and call your chapter phone number to ask for available training even before evacuations are needed.
LDWF wants residents who may need assistance with the removal of black bears forced into populated areas by floodwaters to call 1-800-442-2511- toll free. The public is directed not to feed stranded wildlife and avoid disturbance of wildlife displaced by floodwaters. Contact an LDWF Field Office to report the location of stranded wildlife.
A total of 21 parishes have now issued emergency declarations for this event.
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