Gulf of Mexico
A flooding Mississippi River moves through downtown New Orleans in March 2019. TRAVIS LUX / WWNO

Coastal News Roundup: The Ripple Effects of a Flooding Mississippi River

The Mississippi River has been at flood stage for months. Levees and spillways keep most homes and businesses safe and dry from the flood waters, but the high water still creates headaches for levee districts and industries like oil and gas, and fisheries.

This week on the Coastal News Roundup, WWNO coastal reporter Travis Lux went to find out how the river creates problems we can’t always see. WWNO’s Tegan Wendland got the details.

The following transcript has been lightly edited:

TW: The river can be kind of out of sight, out of mind.  We know it’s there, but unless we’re crossing it on a bridge we don’t really know what it’s up to. You went to find out some of the ways a high river affects the state

TL: Yeah, I think there are kind of three categories of impacts: government, economics, and the environment.

TW: Start with government. How do the state, local parishes, and levee districts deal with a high river.

TL: For starters, there’s lots of dredging. When the river gets high it brings a lot of sediment and the Army Corps steps up its dredging to keep the river clear. Then there are levees which need to be inspected. The Corps and local levee districts are out there inspecting them every day right now.

TW: They’re looking for leaks and seeps -- anything that would compromise the strength of the levees.

TL: Exactly. Crews are driving up and down the levee looking for leaks, seepage, barges that are parked incorrectly on the river. Or, maybe someone is digging too close to levee.

TW: Which is why army corps limits construction and development anywhere near the levee when the river is high.

TL: You basically can’t do any digging within 1500 feet of the river. That may not seem like a big deal, but can cause headaches for certain projects. The City of New Orleans actually has a number of projects on hold because of the high river. A lot of them are road paving projects -- but the big one is the Bourbon Street resurfacing project which is on pause until the river drops a few more feet.

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