Atchafalaya river levels on the rise
By GEOFFREY STOUTE
MORGAN CITY — The Atchafalaya River has topped the 4-foot mark, which is pegged as flood stage, but well below the 6 foot levels that start causing locals on the unprotected side of the floodwall any inconvenience.
According to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, last night, the water levels reached 4 feet, was at 4.02 feet as of 7 a.m. today and then slipped to 3.98 feet as of 10 a.m. today.
The rise is nearly a foot more than the 3.17 foot stage on Dec. 4.
Officials at the NWS’ Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center said the spike is due to heavy rains in the Lower Ohio and Tennessee valleys.
Mike Lowe of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District, told Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District commissioners that river levels at Cairo, Ill., where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet before coming down to Louisiana, are leveling off, but at a higher stage.
He said the elevation here will depend on how much rain the area receives.
Water that passes in Cairo usually takes about two weeks to arrive in the Morgan City area, which is when Jeff Graschel, service coordination hydrologist with the NWS’ Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center, said the crest should occur here.
Graschel said this morning the crest is expected at about 4.5 feet around Christmas.
Following the crest, Graschel said river levels will remain above 4 feet, at least until the end of the month, and pending no heavy rains, will continue to drop.
However, he said there are rainy weather patterns up north right now.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the commissioners:
—Agreed to fund a proposed boat launch, reserved for federal and state agencies’ use, using its own monies because 2009 Port Security Grant monies that were supposed to pay for it have not come in yet. The contract was awarded to Gray Construction in Bayou Vista, the low bidder, for $308,800. The port’s grant writer, Mike Knobloch, said the grant will be adjusted to reflect the change and the monies will be used elsewhere. Knobloch also reported there has been no movement on the 2010 and 2011 Port Security grants.
—Learned from Clay Breaud of GSE Associates that the project to resurface the parking lot has been signed and a preconstruction meeting will be held soon and a notice to proceed is expected to be issued around the end of January. Breaud said the parking lot is being done a third at a time and the construction time on the project is four months.
—Learned from Capt. Jonathan Burton, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City, that a new contractor has been assigned to take care of a vessel that has overturned in Bayou Shafer. Burton said the vessel will be taken apart to salvage it because once it turned over, it was a total loss. Burton said some equipment may be mobilized at the scene to do so.
—Learned from Knobloch that the 2012 Coastal Master Plan will be issued in mid-January.
—Tabled renewing the port’s contract for Moffat & Nichol for the second month in a row because the state’s Facility Planning and Control office, which will be helping to fund work Moffatt & Nichol will be doing, needs more clarification about how the monies will be spent.
—Elected its same slate of officers for the coming year, which included Jerry Gauthier (president), Greg Aucoin (vice president), Matt Ackel (secretary) and Deborah Garber (treasurer).
—Approved a letter of no objection from Miller Engineers & Associations on behalf of St. Mary Parish Government regarding a project at the Russo Boat Landing in Morgan City.
Commissioners Bill Pecoraro, Garber and Joe Jones all were absent from Monday’s meeting.