Army Corps to open Morganza Spillway, spilling fresh water into fragile ecosystems

Record flooding has led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open the Morganza Spillway, diverting 150,000 cubic feet of fresh water per second from the Mississippi River into Louisiana waters.

In response, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and a coalition of Gulf of Mexico seafood organizations are calling for Gulf Coast politicians to make a coordinated request to FEMA to declare a state of emergency existing specific to gulf seafood and its related industries.

“The opening of the Morganza Spillway will cause severe damage to the Atchafalaya Basin, our nation’s largest estuary,” said Nungesser, who oversees Louisiana’s Seafood Board. “The opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway earlier this year already has negatively impacted seafood in Lake Pontchartrain and Borgne, as well as fisheries in Mississippi. New freshwater flow into the basin will further impact the livelihoods of thousands of gulf fishermen, as well as crawfish and oyster farmers. My office is also asking Congress to include assistance for the gulf seafood industry in any future disaster recovery bills.”

“The [Atchafalaya] basin is the birthplace of our commercial fishing industry,” said Jim Gossen, president of the Gulf Seafood Foundation. “It is a biological transition zone required for the survival of many species of fish and wildlife. The entering floodwaters will be detrimental to that natural balance for months, if not years to come.”

The coalition is planning on delivering a petition to state governors soon.

According to FEMA, businesses in a declared disaster area may be eligible for financial assistance from the Small Business Administration, as well as a host of other services.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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