Hosemann says Corps should change rules, open Morganza spillway

Hosemann says Corps should change rules, open Morganza spillway
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, left, listens to a question from Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes during a press conference on Thursday. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open the Morganza Spillway by whatever means necessary.

Hosemann said he has been meeting with the Corps to get them to open the Morganza Spillway on the Mississippi River to relieve the effects of the Bonnet Carre’ spillway on South Mississippi.

Hosemann said the strict interpretation of the wording in the statute governing the Corps’ operation "has caused Mississippi economic harm.” On Thursday, he sent a letter to the Corps and the Mississippi River Commission asking specific questions he believes will lead to a change. (Read the full letter here: https://bit.ly/2XIwaSr)

The standard set by the 1935 statute that governs the opening of Morganza has not been met, so the Corps said they can’t open that spillway. Hosemann argued that the law governing the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway has repeatedly been violated by opening it more than once every five years.

He wants to give the Corps more latitude in operating the spillways or change the statute.

“It is my opinion,” he said, “that the Corps does have some latitude here, and that it’s time for them to exercise that latitude.”

Hosemann said that he believes the Corps would agree with him.

Freshwater from the Bonnet Carre’ opening has lowered salinity in the Mississippi Sound, causing an algae bloom which is damaging the tourism industry and causing major damage to the seafood industry.

“We as a state can not afford to have our oysters, our shrimp, our commercial fishermen decimated every year by the opening of the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway when there is a viable alternative,” Hosemann said during his press conference.

Hosemann said had the Morganza Spillway been opened sooner in the current Mississippi River flooding event, the threat to New Orleans would be less, especially with Tropical Storm Barry bearing down on the city.

Hosemann said that opening the Morganza at 30,000 feet per second would flood one foot in the Actchafalaya Basin, and not affect any homes or businesses. Opening Morganza to 60,000 feet-per-second would cause two feet of floodwater in the Actchafalaya Basin, but reduce the flow of freshwater to the Mississippi Sound by 40 percent.

Hoseman said another problem is that the six-member Mississippi River Commission does not have any representation from Mississippi.

His letter will not likely have any immediate affect, Hosemann said, because of Tropical Storm Barry. The likelihood of closing Bonnet Carre’ and time soon is “remote” because of impending weather.

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