Morganza Spillway likely to open over weekend

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will “very likely” open the Morganza Spillway north of Baton Rouge this weekend to lower the levels of the swollen Mississippi River, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday.

“It is extremely likely that the Morganza Spillway will open by tomorrow night or Sunday at the latest,” Jindal said in an official statement after meeting with state and federal officials.

Opening the spillway would divert water from the Mississippi River, which has risen to as much as 13 feet above flood stage in some areas, and send it south through the Atchafalaya Basin, a swath of swampland that extends to the Gulf of Mexico. The flooding has impeded river traffic and sent refiners in the area scrambling as they try to bring crude oil into their plants and send fuel out.

Diverting the water could affect oil and gas production in the basin, however. An estimated 19,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day is produced at more than 2, 200 oil and natural gas wells in the basin.

The Corps will likely open the flood gates halfway at first, allowing the flow of 300,000 cubic feet of water a second, Jindal said.

-By Ben Lefebvre, Dow Jones Newswires

Photo: Morganza Spillway courtesy Flickr user Eric Paul