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After 118 days, Corps of Engineers will start to close Bonnet Carré Spillway

Here’s why Mississippi has no say in the opening of the Bonnet Carré

Here's why Mississippi has no say in the opening of the Bonnet Carré. Why the spillway was built and more about the openings.
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Here's why Mississippi has no say in the opening of the Bonnet Carré. Why the spillway was built and more about the openings.

If all goes according to plan, the Bonnet Carré Spillway could be closed by the weekend.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would begin to close 10 of the 168 open bays Monday, according to a release.

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority tweeted that the Corps plans to have the spillway completely closed by the weekend if weather permits.

The spillway is used to keep the Mississippi River below 17 feet above sea level at the Carrollton Gauge in New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.

The spillway has been open for 118 days, the longest opening in history. When the pumps are closed, it will take about 10 days for fresh water to completely stop pumping fresh water into the Mississippi Sound, Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Joe Spraggins told the Sun Herald.

The spillway opening has hurt the Coast’s seafood industry, as fresh water threatens ecosystems that thrive in the salt water off the Coast.

Fishermen and seafood processors are suffering financially, with charter bookings and commercial landings down. Tourism officials worry further fouling of the waters, and the publicity it brings, could scare away visitors, as the BP oil spill did, the Sun Herald reported in June.

The Bonnet Carré Spillway poured nearly six trillion gallons of fresh water into the Mississippi Sound. Now thousands of oysters and other wildlife are dying. Mississippi oyster farmers are seeing mortality rates up to more than 90-percent.

The Corps has the sole power to decide when to open the spillway and for how long. Coast officials want to have their voices heard.

“The state of Mississippi wants a seat at the table when these decisions are made,” Spraggins previously told the Sun Herald. “We want the Corps and the state of Louisiana to consider the environmental and economic impacts on the state of Mississippi.”

Blue-green alga has been carried from the Mississippi River into the Gulf as a result of the spillway opening, closing beaches along the Coast.

Spraggins said Mississippi will feel the effects of algae bloom until at least October.

Once the algae dies, he said, there is a possibility of a major fish kill as decomposition depletes oxygen in the water.

SunHerald reporter Anita Lee contributed to this report.

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