Watching water levels, residents ready for spring thaw

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POSTED: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 8:19pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 8:24pm

The northern half of the country got a lot of snow this winter, and when it all melts, the runoff will drain into the Mississippi River to.
The US Army Corps of Engineers officials said they're prepared for what they call "high water season." Meanwhile fishermen on the
Morganza spillway are hoping for some extra water to head our way soon.

Crawfisherman and processor Tim LeBlanc is watching and waiting to see how much water will head his way.

"As any crawfisherman in the South one thing we do look at is the water stages,and anything in the Ohio Valley. We always look at, because we know that we are going to be getting that water down the Mississippi," LeBlanc said.

He makes his living on the treasures found in the Morganza Spillway, and he said water levels can affect his ability to catch crawfish...

"High water levels are great for us. We want to see that. If we don't get high water we don't get crawfish at all," He explained.

The crawfish change their routine when the water levels go up.

"When the levels of the river come up it floods all the basin area and that causes the crawfish to come out of their to come out of their holes and start feeding on the higher ridges," He stated.

While LeBlanc wants to see the water levels go up, he said he doesn't want them to go up too much.

"We'd like to see it around 32, 33 (feet), but when you start getting around 38 we start getting nervous," He said.

Mike Stack, Director of Emergency Operations for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District, said so far the situation in the river doesn't call for any floodways to be opened.

"Based on the kind of forecast," Stack said. "Even with the snow that's up there we don't anticipate operation of floodways at this point. That could change going forward. If we had a large rain event that came through that would have to reassess. We don't see anything at this point that would lead us to that."

He said it takes more than just snow to cause a major rise in river water, and big changes in the flow of set water.

"The snow by itself won't really lead to flood stages down here," Stack said. "It would be in combination with some rain. That would be what would rise the stages down here to those flood stages where we would operate the structures."

Stack explained, "The floodway themselves are triggered by the flow of water in the river at the point of the floodways."

Stack said no matter how what happens in the river the Army Corps is prepared.

"We have a high water plan for the entire system that not only involves operation of the structure inspections up and down the levees to make sure they are performing well," He said. "We've gone through our training processes our teams are ready our structures are ready for this season if we need to respond to that if we need to. "

LeBlanc said he's putting his faith in officials like the Army Corps to keep him safe.

"All the government officials they know what to look for and what to be cautious about," LeBlanc said. "So, we kind of put our trust in them. We really don't get scared around here, because we've dealt with it for so long. So, you know what mother nature is going to do she's going to do."

Army Corps officials say they've only opened the Morganza Spillway twice since it was built in the 1950's.

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