Mississippi Floods Overwhelm Aging Control System

By Paul Kemp (National Audubon Society) and John Day (Louisiana State University)

Special to CNN

Dr. Paul Kemp, Louisiana Coastal Initiative Vice President, National Audubon Society (credit: Bruce Reid)

Dr. John Day, Distinguished Professor, Coastal Ecology Institute, Louisiana State University (credit: lsu.edu)

(CNN) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway for the 10th time since 1932. This 7,000-foot structure of gates on the east bank of the Mississippi River, 30 miles above New Orleans, relieves pressure on levees protecting the city by shunting river water into nearby Lake Pontchartrain.

As the crest of the historic 2011 flood rolls downriver from Memphis toward an arrival in Louisiana in two weeks, carrying up to 2 million cubic feet of water per second, we who wait at the bottom of the Mississippi’s vast watershed are painfully aware of our dependence on an 80-year-old flood protection system that’s functioning on borrowed time.

Consider the plight of Morgan City, Louisiana, on the Atchafalaya River near the Gulf of Mexico. If, as now seems likely, the Bonnet Carré Spillway cannot divert enough water to save New Orleans, the Corps will open another outlet…

Continue reading this story on CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/05/10/kemp.mississippi.river/index.html