Bonnet Carre Spillway closes, worries arise about marine life

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Army Corps of Engineers has closed the last floodgates on the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Waters are now at a reasonable level and cities along the river seem to be safe. But some are worried about how freshwater flooding may affect marine life in the Gulf.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has been continuously monitoring satellite images of the freshwater that has been making its way into the Gulf since May.

According to Joe Jewel with the DMR office in Biloxi, scientists are monitoring the situation every day and are also in an assessment phase for a recovery.

The recovery process is crucial because the livelihood of coast fishermen depends on it. The freshwater could have detrimental effect on the fish and marine life in the marshes.

"When that freshwater impacts those areas, it gets up in that freshwater marsh," Jewel explained. "The larger ones that can survive, they'll move out ahead of it. But the smaller ones, they'll die. It will kill them."

So far the Department of Marine Resources has noted a mortality rate of about 90 percent in the St. Joe and Waveland reefs. Oyster reefs further east, like those at Henderson Point, have had mortality rates of about 80 percent.

The numbers are alarming. However officials say in the grand scale of things, we appear to be okay. Studies show that shrimpers have noted very minimal impact from the freshwater flooding. In either case, the Department of Marine Resources will be watching closely, making sure the Gulf Coast is protected.

Officials say it could take up to two to three weeks for the freshwater mixed in with saltwater to completely flush out.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.