FLOODWATCH: Diverted waters reach spillway near Ramah

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

With some pressure off Mississippi levees, the focus has shifted to the Atchafalaya Basin, where water released at Morganza will flood the spillway side and increase the possibility of backwater flooding in the southern part of the parish.

Iberville Parish Council President Matthew H. Jewell of Maringouin said late Monday afternoon his camp on Black Bayou and about 14 others in the spillway Ramah were about to go under.

“This is going to be one for the history books, I believe,” Jewell said as he returned from the area late Monday afternoon. Water was within four inches of his camphouse, which sits five feet off the ground and has never flooded since it was built in 1987.

The Mississippi crested in Baton Rouge at 41.6 feet in 1973, at 43.7 feet in 1997 and at 43.09 feet in 2008.

Residents in areas back of White Castle, in the Lone Star and New Camp Road areas near the boat landing near La. 993, have been laying in more parish-supplied sandbags than in other areas, Iberville Emergency Director Laurie Doiron said.

“It's backing up a little bit,” Parish Councilman Mitchel J. Ourso Sr. of White Castle reported from his area Monday. “...There are a few houses in Bayou Pigeon that we know are going to take a little water.”

“For the most part, we're fine,” said White Castle Mayor Gerald Jamarr Williams. “We're keeping a close eye on Morgan City and Pierre Part,” as well as following daily updates from the state and the parish.

As of Tuesday morning, the water level in the Atchafalaya Spillway near Bayou Sorrel was 12.3 feet. The water is expected to crest at 18 feet, 0.1 feet lower than in 1973.

Levees at Bayou Sorrel protect to 33.8 to 34 feet. At the Bayou Sorrel Lock, the Corps of Engineers has welded five-foot plates to the top of the structure to increase the flood protection to 27 feet. The expected crest there is expected to be 21.5 feet.

Also Tuesday morning, the landside gauge showed the water level in this area is 3.1 feet at Bayou Sorrel. The U. S. Coast Guard will restrict use of the waterway if the level reaches six feet.

“I believe we're in really good shape. I don't know how much backwater we're going to get,” Parish Councilman Louis R. “Pete” Kelley Jr. of Bayou Sorrel said. “The Corps of Engineers is not looking for us to get a whole lot.”

“Bayou Sorrel is very, very dry,” Councilman Kelley said. “There's no water in the ditches. As long as the rain don't [sic] come, I think we're in good shape.”

He said a barge sunk at Bayou Chine, a canal near Morgan City, should hold down backwater flooding, as it did during the 1973 flood. Pilings driven on either side of the barge have blocked off the canal by 90 percent, he said.

Commercial fishing is continuing, Kelley said.

Belle River, Stevensville and other areas south of here likely will see high water, Kelley said.

Governor Bobby Tindal estimated 25,000 residents and 2,000 structures in the Atchafalaya Basin would be face flooding by water released at Organza.

Iberville residents cleared out some 200 camps and a few houses on the spillway side of the Basin last week.

The parish has posted maps of potential flooding at ibervilleparish.com.

Maj. Johnny Blanchard of the Iberville Sheriff's Office said Monday residents had continued to move their possessions out and secure their camps over the weekend.

“They're moving houseboats inside the levees to get away from high waters,” Blanchard said, estimating 40 or 50 had been moved. “They're constantly moving them in. There were at least 10 Saturday.”

Council President Jewell said he had lashed his camp house down with mobile home ropes.

“When the water reaches Ramah, it's going to rise really fast,” he said. “We're prepared for it, but you never know what it's going to do. We tied it down. I hope the current is not so bad as to wash it off its pilings.”

Jewell said some 600 deer fled the North Farms area of the Sherburne Wildlife management Area of North Iberville. He said raccoons, bobcats and coyotes also have been spotted, but so far no bears.

Sheriff Brent Allan said deputies patrolling the parish have reported more deer than anything, but also hogs.

“The wildlife is coming out,” Major Blanchard reported after patrolling the Bayou Sorrel and Bayou Pigeon areas Monday. “People are taking pictures of them, causing some stuff.”

Jewell said no homes are in danger in North Iberville.

“That would only happen if there is a levee breach,” he said. “The levee seems to be in really good shape.”

Other North End officials – Parish Councilman Timothy J. Valet of Grosse Tate, Meringue Mayor John F. Overton and Rosedale Mayor Lawrence “Football” Bandeau – echoed that assessment, as did others from other parts of the parish.

“It's a wait and see process,” Overton said.

“We're keeping an eye on the flood level of the river,” St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace said. “It's not really rising too much from what I can see.”

“We're looking good so far,” Sheriff Allan said. “...We're okay in Iberville.”