Morganza Spillway Opening Could Devastate Wildlife, Fisheries, Farmland

Photo courtesy of the State of Louisiana

On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to announce whether opening the Morganza Spillway will be necessary.

The last time the spillway was opened was in 2011, causing major flooding for both wildlife and people. According to Kline, this opening will be different because the spillway will be opened more slowly.

“They are going to do a slow opening,” Kline told WWL. “One bay a day for six bays so that wildlife will have time to adapt as well as the farmers who have livestock.”

Conservationists and scientists have expressed concern over how opening the spillway will affect south Louisiana’s wildlife population. As black bears, feral hogs, white-tailed deer, raccoons, possums, and wild turkeys flee to higher ground, they may wander onto levees or highways.

“We encourage people to stay away from the levee, stay off the roads,” Wildlife Division administrator Kenny Ribbeck told The Advocate. “When they see critters, recognize they are trying to find a safe place. Back off and let them be.”

Opening the spillway will flood thousands of acres of Louisiana farmland, and have a devastating effect on marine fisheries. Oyster populations in the Terrebonne and Atchafalaya Basins will likely experience die-offs, while black drum, crab, redfish, and speckled trout populations may be displaced.

And of, course, the crawfish industry is expected to be affected as well.

According to Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West president Jody Meche, “When they open the structure, it pushes all that old, black, rotten, dead, stagnant water to all of our fishing areas and kills everything. The crawfish die in the traps.” Meche went on to state that he expects opening the Morganza Spillway will “completely devastate” crawfishing in the Atchafalaya Basin.

“I hope they don’t open it,” Meche said. “But if they open it, it’s going to be a bad situation.”

Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.

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