We just can’t get a break from the high water in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Sport fishermen and commercial fishermen have been frustrated by the amount of water in the Atchafalaya River, which by law takes 30 percent of the Mississippi River, ever since November when it inexplicably rose above 12 feet at Butte La Rose, the gauge used by outdoorsmen in the Teche Area.
Six months and so many rises later, the river stage was at 20.1 feet at BLR on Saturday. It was at 16.3 feet halfway through February.
To say it’s been unfishably high all year is an understatement. The high water’s most telling effect, though, has been in the volume of fresh, muddy water it’s pumping into the northern Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Atchafalaya River and along the eastern edge of Vermilion Bay at the mouth of the Wax Lake Outlet, also known as Calumet Cut.
The Bay’s water looks like chocolate milk and it isn’t much better on the outside along the southern shoreline of Marsh Island. Recreational shrimpers found few if any shrimp in the Bay during the season opener on Monday.
The area’s many freshwater fishermen who chase bass, sac-a-lait and bream have been confined for the most part to Lake Dauterive-Fausse Pointe. The lake system has been high and muddy most of the year and the few areas with clear water have been pressured heavily, almost nonstop.
Other popular freshwater fishing destinations, such as Quintana Canal and Belle Isle to the west of the Atchafalaya Basin and the Bayou Black area east of the East Atchafalaya Basin Protection, have been impacted by the high water, too.
We were hopeful of getting into the nation’s last great overflow at least some time in July. That might be a pipe dream.
Ditto for ihe prospects of fishing inside waters around Cypremort Point.
Why? It looks like we’re about to get even more water in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Based on reports this past week, the Morganza Spillway may be opened on June 2, one week from today, because the Mississippi River has been at or above flood stage for a record number of days in much of South Louisiana. Opening the Morganza Spillway sends water through a structure in Pointe Coupee Parish, then on through the Atchafalaya Basin and finally into the Gulf. Opening it relieves strain on levees along the lower Mississippi River.
A final decision will be made Tuesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It isn’t an easy choice because agricultural land and camps between the levees will be destroyed.
The Morganza Spillway, completed in 1954, has been opened only twice, once for 56 days in 1973 and again for 55 days in 2011.
Hopefully, the Corps, which bases its decision on current river forecasts and rainfall in the Midwest, won’t have to make the call a third time.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.