Jindal: Spillway will open

Published 12:05 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Eric Shelton | The Natchez Democrat

VIDALIA — Water inched its way toward $75 million worth of infrastructure Thursday as Gov. Bobby Jindal toured the Vidalia Riverfront and announced some welcome news.

Jindal said to combat the river levels the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers requested and was given permission to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway located approximately 12 miles from New Orleans. Officials will begin the process at 8 a.m. Monday. The gates were last opened in 2008.

Jindal said officials are also looking at opening the Morganza Spillway near Baton Rouge, but a decision will not be made on that until later next week.

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Jindal and National Guard General Bennett Landreneau both arrived by helicopter to view the progress on the riverfront and speak on the efforts to save infrastructure.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland showed Jindal around the Riverfront and explained to him the many pieces that are in play to help protect against the river.

“We know there are historic flood levels projected to go right through Vidalia and Louisiana,” Jindal said. “This is not going to be a quick event, but we as a state are determined to work with local and parish officials to protect the people, their property and their livelihoods.”

Jindal said he has been in constant contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and so far the reports have all been good.

“We fully expect all the river levees to hold the water,” he said. “We haven’t dealt with waters this high, but we have done this before, and we are going to continue our efforts to protect our people.”

The instant levees, or Hesco Bastion barriers, being used to wall off the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center, Comfort Suites, Promise Hospital, the city’s two water wells and Riverpark Medical Center from the river are a great tool to have available, Jindal said.

“They are made in the state, and they were used to help when the oil spill hit the Gulf last year,” he said. “They are very critical to helping this situation.”

Jindal said the National Guard was mobilized Thursday, and 18 to 20 troops will be stationed in Concordia Parish to help with the ongoing work.

“There will be the availability to have more troops, you just have to request more of them,” he said.

While the river levels are dangerous, Jindal said residents need to also focus on the length of the crest as well.

“We need to be wary of the volume of the water and the duration it is going to sit,” he said. “This is not going to be a quick problem.”

Jindal also said he sent a request for federal disaster declaration to President Obama, that has yet to be signed, that would help out anyone who suffers loss from the historic river rise.

All in all, Jindal said working together and staying informed were going to be the key factors in coping with disaster.

“You need to pay attention to your local leaders and media, because a lot of the rumors that spread around are false,” he said.

“Everything is being done on a local level, so you need to take the (local leaders) seriously when they tell you to do something.”

Copeland said he was glad to have the support of Jindal and the state behind Vidalia.

“You have always been a great friend to the City of Vidalia,” he said. “We hope to invite you back again under different circumstances.”

Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin said he appreciated Jindal for always finding time to come to Concordia to check on things.

“You come here more than my kids do,” he said.

The river was at 53.09 feet as of Thursday afternoon. Flood stage is 48 feet.

The record flood stage for the Miss-Lou is 58.04 feet in 1937.