(Monroe News Star)-The mighty Mississippi River is forecast to reach flood stage in Louisiana this month from the Arkansas state line to Baton Rouge, testing a saturated levee system for the third straight winter.
“It looks like to me we have a problem coming,” said 5th Louisiana Levee District President Reynold Minsky. “If the rain continues in the Ohio Valley basin there’s no place for it to go.”
The 5th Louisiana Levee District includes about 350 miles of levee in East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Concordia and Avoyelles parishes.
Minsky hasn’t yet officially closed the levee to traffic, “but I’m asking people to stay off the levee unless they really need to be on it.”
Minsky said the earthen levee protecting lives and property hasn’t shown any visible signs of weakness, but it has been saturated since the fall.
“It’s shaky as hell; like a bowl full of jelly,” Minsky said. “It’s got water running down every crack.”
Minsky said he’d like to see the state close deer hunting season along the levee to diminish traffic.
The Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks agency has closed deer hunting at its Mahannah Wildlife Management Area near Vicksburg because of high water and flooding.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet said his agency is monitoring the situation here.
“We’ve looked at it and our wildlife division has decided against closing any sections for now, but we’re carefully monitoring it,” Montoucet said. “We’re on top of it.”
Minsky said he will likely close the levee to traffic sometime next week.
The river is forecast to crest at flood stage in Greeville, Miss. (48 feet) on Jan. 16 and flood stage in Vicksburg at 43 feet on Jan. 18.
It’s forecast to crest at 50 feet in Natchez on Jan. 19, 2 feet above flood stage, and 53.5 feet at Red River Landing, 5.5 feet above flood stage, on Jan. 20.
The river is forecast to crest at 36.5 feet in Baton Rouge on Jan. 20, 1.5 feet above flood stage.
Points south of Baton Rouge aren’t currently forecast to reach flood stage.
“When it get to 43 feet in Vicksburg it’s sure enough serious,” Minsky said. “Most of the land (on the river side) of the levee is already flooded.”
Recreation land like Davis Island and Diamond Island on the river side of the island will be almost completely flooded when the river level reaches flood stage in Vicksburg.
But just because the river rises above flood stage doesn’t mean it will threaten people and property on the protected side of the levee.
Minsky said the levee offers protection of at least 58 feet.