Governor Jindal met with the Unified Command Group of state and federal leaders today and held a press conference to give an update on state preparation efforts for the Corps' upcoming decision to open the Morganza Spillway.
Governor Jindal said, "We know the Corps plans to open the Morganza Spillway once the 1.5 million cubic feet per second trigger is reached at the Red River Landing gauge and we continue to work with parishes in the impacted area to prepare for the effects of this opening. Right now, they are measuring this gauge at 1.36 million cubic feet per second.
"It is very important, even as we continue to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, that citizens in the Morganza Spillway area continue to listen to their local officials and news on the impact of opening the Spillway. People in those areas that are shown to be inundated by the opening of the Spillway should not wait. Don't wait for an official notice from the Corps on the opening of the Spillway. Act now and be prepared as if this will happen. It is better to be over-prepared. Now is the time to make sure you take every step you can to get ready for this event.
"The Corps says Col. Fleming is traveling to Butte La Rose and Morgan City to brief residents about the impact of opening the Spillway in their areas. The Weather Service also said they have increased the Butte La Rose crest estimate to 29 feet.
"The Corps will open 38 more bays on the Bonnet Carre Spillway today and they expect this Spillway to be at complete capacity by the 14th. Yesterday, the Corps began to degrade the potato ridge levee around the Morganza Spillway to prepare for the opening of this structure, which will take four days in total to degrade. They said degrading this levee will help provide them with a better flow when their trigger point is reached for opening the Spillway.
"Working with the US Coast Guard, the Corps said they will close river locks as water levels continue to rise. When the Old River gauge reaches 62.5, they will close the locks there; and in Baton Rouge, locks will close when the gauge reaches 45.
"The Corps said if they decide to open the Spillway, it will take a week for them to fully open the structure. Also, the Alon Refinery in Krotz Springs will have to close if the Spillway is opened.
"The Coast Guard also reported that the Amelia Casino will stay open until the road leading the casino is flooded and prevents people from traveling to it. The Coast Guard has also deployed LNOs to river parishes in order to keep them updated on river traffic and alerted to the possible travel of dangerous cargo in their area.
"In Krotz Springs, the National Guard already began the Krotz Springs Levee project by staging 200 yards of asphalt on it with ten more trucks already lined up. CPRA is also working to supply 10,000 feet of HESCO baskets to this area.
"In St. Mary Parish, LANG continues to construct 13,000 feet of HESCO barrier in order to fortify and elevate levees along Lake Palourde to prevent backwater flooding in Morgan City and Amelia. As of last night, crews stretched and filled 2,240 feet of HESCO barrier and continue construction today. The total project will be 10,000 feet. To support the HESCO site near Amelia, crews placed 150 feet of barrier this morning and continue this work today. The total project there will be 3,000 feet. LANG expects to complete these operations by May 13th.
"In Assumption Parish, the Guardsmen completed training on installing tiger tubes. Today, crews are assisting the parish in identify low areas on an inner protection levee in the vicinity of Pierre Part. Once they identify those areas below five feet, crews will begin installing the tiger tubes. To support deliberate sweeps of the floodway, we have identified areas of interest to focus infrared radar over-flights to identify citizens remaining in the easement area.
"The National Guard also has high water vehicles and boats staged in the event that high water evacuations are required. Also, the Guard continues to work with GOHSEP, Wildlife and Fisheries, State Police, and other agency partners to coordinate search and rescue plans. The Louisiana National Guard continues to provide aviation support to assess levees and possible inundation areas. They are also providing aviation support to the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers for levee reconnaissance.
"In the last 24 hours, the Louisiana National Guard has deployed liaison teams to East Baton Rouge Parish, with LNO Teams now in 19 affected parishes in order to coordinate National Guard support to parish efforts.
"Yesterday, the National Guard also contacted additional parishes that could be threatened by flooding to offer LANG LNO support. LNOs are prepared to deploy to these parishes upon request. In addition to Parish LNOs, LANG has liaison teams embedded with the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard's New Orleans Sector Office, where they will assist with Spillway Evacuation Sweeps.
"In support of parishes that will be impacted by Corps' decision to open the Morganza Spillway, Louisiana Guardsmen continue to work with parish officials to conduct door-to-door notifications and area evacuations. In conjunction with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana State Police, the Louisiana National Guard continues to plan post-evacuation security in support of local law enforcement agencies. The National Guard is also patrolling levees, assessing canals for water levels, and reporting information to parish officials. Additionally, Guardsmen provided Parish officials with inundation maps to conduct detailed analysis of possible flooding in their Parishes."
LANG currently has approximately 600 Guardsmen mobilized for this emergency. The Guard continues to support efforts to monitor levees, distribute equipment and supplies, and fortify levees in East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, and Concordia Parishes. Guardsmen are also assessing areas in LaSalle, Catahoula, and Avoyelles Parishes in preparation for potential backwater flooding. In total, the Louisiana National Guard assisted in the identification of 45 Sand Boils in East Carroll, 20 Sand Boils in Concordia Parish, and 1 Sand Boil in Tensas Parish.
The Governor said that Arkansas asked LANG for assistance in their flood fighting efforts to combat a sand boil of approximately 40 meters on a Mississippi River Levee. Initial sandbagging will be augmented with large sandbag drops in coordination with other engineer operations. The AR National Guard is preparing to start helicopter operations by air dropping 2,000 to 3,000 pound sandbags. The Louisiana National Guard is providing 75 helicopter slings and technical assistance to the AR National Guard in order to coordinate for the large sand bag drops.
The Governor said CPRA is providing the St. Mary Levee District and Terrebonne Levee District with $500,000 each -- a total of $1 million - in order to fund ongoing levee fortification and flood protection work in areas at risk of flooding. These funds will be made available immediately to the levee districts to support efforts in addition to those being funded directly by the state - such as HESCOs, pumps, sand, dirt and other resources. CPRA expects this funding to be fully reimbursed by FEMA once a full disaster declaration is issued to allow access to federal public assistance funds.
Pumps are being moved to strategic locations in Terrebonne and St. Mary parish to prevent flooding. CPRA stockpiled 7,000 cubic yards of fill material in Amelia for Hesco basket operations. Also, CPRA project management staff was transferred to Morgan City to facilitate flood-fighting efforts in the area. Additional requests for Hesco baskets and other flood-fighting measures have been placed with the Corps of Engineers and FEMA. Sheet piles for the 1,200 foot sinkable-barge closure are arriving today and the Corps will begin placement operations in Morgan City tomorrow.
The CPRA is working to establish a levee along nine miles of Highway 182 in Terrebonne Parish to prevent backwater flooding. A combination of HESCOs, dirt, sandbags and other protection features are all being considered.
To date, DOTD has utilized a total of 34,700 sandbags and 151 personnel activated.
In St Mary Parish, DOTD hauled 226 cubic yards of reclaimed asphalt pavement to the Patterson levee for the St Mary Levee District and Corp to begin placement. This effort is in support of the levee districts efforts to build up the low areas of the levee at Wilson's Landing and Possum Bayou Pump Station in Patterson, La. Additionally, DOTD is assisting in the fortification measures around Possum Bayou Pump Station.
Today, DOTD put a hold on work involving accessing the newly-opened John James Audubon bridge from the river such as the installation of protective berms and the tower crane base removal, due to high water in the Mississippi River. However, work continues inside the towers, on the concrete finish, and in areas around the approaches.
DOTD is also building an emergency levee at the Butte La Rose Rest Area to limit as much as possible future flooding in the area. Yesterday, the Butte La Rose Rest Area Boat Landing closed until further notice due to rising water. The emergency levee construction will be complete at the end of the week and include building a levee made of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) to the elevation 26.2 feet.
¥ The top of the levee will be 4 foot wide and topped with a temporary flood control product called Metalith -- a prefabricated steel barrier unit.
¥ ResponseForce1 Corp. has donated their product, Metalith, for this project. Including the Metalith, the elevation will reach 29.2 feet which is 2 feet above the predicted flood elevation provided to DOTD by the Corps.
¥ DOTD is working with local law enforcement to maintain emergency access to the boat landing as well as to notify local boaters of the pending construction.
In East Baton Rouge, DOTD put 30 sandbags on the levee in downtown Baton Rouge. They also put sandbags on manholes there to prevent water backing up on the road from the Miss. River. They are planning to now drain the road into the Capital Lake.
The Crescent City Connection Division is monitoring three New Orleans area ferries - Algiers, Chalmette and Gretna - multiple times a day and is projecting that based on water levels the Lower Algiers/Chalmette ferry may close by the end of the week.
DOTD placed 30 sandbags and 15 cubic yards of sand on the Downtown Baton Rouge levee to prevent floodwater from flowing into River Road. Yesterday, approximately 2000 feet of the northbound and southbound outside lanes of U.S. 190 Business (River Road), starting from Third Street to North Street in Downtown Baton Rouge closed due to high water flood protection and prevention activities. This closure will extend through the duration of the high water event.
In East Carroll Parish, DOTD has delivered a total of 17,900 sandbags.
At Hunt Correctional today, DOTD's 6-man survey crew is conducting levee elevation verification work to help inform flood protection efforts.
In Concordia Parish, beginning Saturday, May 14, DOTD will prohibit truck traffic on the portions of La. 15 and La. 3196 that traverse the top of the levee. Passenger vehicle traffic will be the only traffic permitted to travel on the paved portions atop the levee, along La. 15 and La. 3196. DOTD already began placing notices to provide the trucking community advance alerts on the pending vehicle restrictions.
In Iberville Parish, the Plaquemine Ferry is currently operating its normal hours today but it will be closed until further notice starting tomorrow morning, due to high water.
To create more fill material for levee fortification on the La. 451 Big Bend levee, DOTD increased their forces to a total of 16 DOTD dump trucks hauling approximately 2,376 cubic yards of material. The fill material will be utilized by the Red River, Atchafalaya, and Bayou Boeuf levee districts to build up the elevation of the levee specifically in locations where a roadway reduced the levee's elevation.
DOC announced that offender visitation at Avoyelles Correctional Center and Dixon Correctional Institute is cancelled until further notice. Louisiana State Penitentiary and Elayn Hunt Correctional Center had previously announced visitation cancellations until further notice.
Phase II offender evacuations are now underway. Some offenders from David Wade Correctional Center are being temporarily assigned to other state correctional facilities to prepare for the future arrival of offender evacuees from Louisiana State Penitentiary. Today, 100 offenders are going to Rayburn Correctional Center and another 100 offenders are going to Allen Correctional Center.
Elayn Hunt Correctional Center is supporting sandbag operations for the Pontchartrain Levee District. Crews have filled 12,000 sandbags from May 2 through May 10, 2011. DOC is also surveying state correctional facilities to ascertain their ability to support sandbagging operations to support anticipated requests. DOC is sending 25 work release offenders to supplement sandbag operations at the West Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
Louisiana State Penitentiary officials met with Entergy officials regarding a substation near the prison that is partially submerged due to high water. Entergy agreed not to de-energize the substation provided there was 24-hour security provided around the substation. West Feliciana Sheriff Austin Daniel agreed to provide this security that so electricity to the prison would not be interrupted.
The Governor said Entergy also briefed state officials today. Entergy said they expect to de-energize a total of 3,600 customers if the Morganza Spillway is open. A total of 2,900 of these customers are in Southern Louisiana. In the Northern part of the state, there are 315 Entergy customers who have already been de-energized as a safety precaution due to flooding there. The Governor said Entergy looks for a level of water that would be as high as an electrical outlet in a home, and would de-energize an area before water reached that level.
Yesterday, DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch signed a Declaration of Emergency and Administrative Order due to the imminent threat of flooding along the Mississippi River. The Order establishes general procedures for the management of floodwater and the operation and monitoring of wastewater treatment facilities in the event of high water levels. It also directs solid and hazardous wastes to be managed in accordance with DEQ's Debris Management Plan and issues guidelines for open burnings, air emissions, asbestos cleanup, and underground storage tanks.
The Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Section reports that the Pinnacle Casino project in south Baton Rouge was ordered to stop construction earlier today by the Ponchartrain Levee District because of the 17-foot river level.
The Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Section is working closely with the Corps of Engineers and East Baton Rouge Public Works to monitor the rising river level effects on downtown riverboat casinos. Both casinos have contingencies in place to shut down if necessary.
DCFS is completing preparations at the Alexandria Mega Shelter, which can now support around 2,400 citizens. There are also 1,600 cots available in the Bastrop Shelter.
AG Department Update
The Agriculture Department is drafting a federal disaster declaration for crop loss that will be sent to the Governor tomorrow to forward on to the USDA Secretary at the federal level in order to activate federal assistance funds.
One other parish declared a state of emergency on Tuesday -- Lafourche, bringing the total number of parishes with emergency declarations to 26.
DNR's Office of Coastal Management coordinated a conference call for the refinery members of the Fuel Team in order to gather information from the Coast Guard on restrictions currently being imposed on river traffic. This information will allow the refineries to plan to lessen the decline in operating capacity due to such restrictions. Six wells have been reported shut-in in anticipation of the Corps' decision to open the Morganza Spillway structure.
DHH is continuing to monitor drinking water and they will work with DOC to form "casket recovery" teams in the event that graves are unearthed by the flooding.