BATON ROUGE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) approved a request by Governor Bobby Jindal for a temporary increase of water flow through the Old River Control Structure into the Atchafalaya Basin to offset an anticipated drop in Basin water levels that could create significant adverse ecologic impacts to the area and economic impacts to the State.
The increased flow will support wildlife and fisheries and the overall health and productivity of the Basin.
Jindal requested that the percentage of total Mississippi River flow into the Atchafalaya Basin through the USACE-operated Old River Control Structure – normally 30 percent of the total Mississippi River flow – be increased from 30 percent to at least 33 percent to help sustain the Atchafalaya Basin, in accordance with the operating rules that allow temporary deviations from the standard 70-30 split under certain conditions.
"The management of water resources in Louisiana must be more dynamic to reflect the rapidly changing conditions of our coast, navigation industry, floods, Atchafalaya Basin and other needs," Jindal said. "Our ports and waterways support tremendous amounts of commerce like the transport of exports and seafood that benefit our economy and our people, and our coastal wetlands are the first line of defense against hurricanes. These must be protected. This increased water flow will help ensure these valuable assets are preserved for our sons and daughters."
Analysis from staff with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Atchafalaya Basin Program indicates that Atchafalaya Basin water levels are likely to drop prematurely below average, based on records from 1959 through 2012, creating a situation in which the water quality could be impaired.
DNR's Atchafalaya Basin staff advised that conditions had been met to allow for increasing the flow to the Basin, and the USACE responded to a formal request from Jindal for 30 days of increased flow to the Basin with approval for at least 15 days, followed by a USACE evaluation to determine if the next 15 days of increased flow can be granted.
Both the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers will be closely monitored for any impacts to navigation, saltwater intrusion and other factors.