Corps looking at levees

Published 12:11 am Monday, April 7, 2008

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has upped its surveillance of Louisiana’s Mississippi River levees as the swollen river’s level continues to rise.

Col. Alvin Lee, commander of the corps’ New Orleans District office, said the river is not expected to overrun or breach the levees, even though water levels are higher then they’ve been in a decade.

‘‘We don’t expect any problems in the (levee) system,’’ he said Sunday.

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Lee said engineers in Louisiana are monitoring the levees with seven-day work weeks and 12-hour shifts — new manpower levels triggered by a forecast that the river will crest in New Orleans at 17 feet on April 16. That forecast is 1 1/2 feet higher than previous predictions, the result of heavy rains throughout the river valley.

The levees were designed to contain at least 20 feet of water.

The corps could decide by Tuesday whether the levels will force opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway, a safety valve about 30 miles north of New Orleans that, when opened, reduces the river’s water volume and eases stress on the levees.

Lee spoke at a news conference called by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who said the state is using everything from the National Guard to the state health department to prevent possible flooding and prepare for it. Tens of thousands of sandbags have been distributed up and down the river.

Jindal said he had confidence in the levee system, adding that the precautions are necessary because river level forecasts can change swiftly.

‘‘We know the situation’s changing rather quickly, when it comes to rising river levels,’’ Jindal said.

River level forecasts are higher today than they’ve been since 1997, the last time the corps opened the Bonnet Carre.

Jindal said he wanted people living in parishes along the river to stay informed about the rivers’ levels. He recommended they consult the Web site of the state emergency preparedness office — — for daily updates.


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Louisiana emergency preparedness: