Public hearing on Spillway use has 100 people

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005


Staff Reporter

NORCO-The open house held Sunday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow the public to discuss the updated Bonnet Carre’ Spillway Master Plan proved that locals are interested in any future changes to the site.

According Mike Stout, chief of natural resource management, the open house was well attended by well over 100 people. The weather was also beneficial, with sun and ideal temperatures causing many people to recreate, showing what the spillway is used for in non-flood times.

The open house took place at the St. Charles Parish Recreation Area, just North of Highway 61 on the Norco side of the Spillway.

The Master Plan outlines how the Corps will manage and direct the Spillway’s flood-control function, environment, recreation and public safety.

Stout said that a wide array of interests were stressed, including talk about hunting, fishing, suggestions for recreational improvements.

Changes to the all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) use, a widely popular recreational pastime at the spillway, were also discussed.

According to Stout, the meeting was only part of their public involvement program.

He said the Corps will also be meeting with user groups and making improvements to their website for faster communication between the Corps and the public, among other things.

“Nothing will change because of this meeting as it was a ‘scoping meeting,'” Stout said, “We used it to get a handle on the scope of things we should address.”

They will take the input, ideas and suggestions, gained from the open house to plan on what to do next to involve the public.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway exists to protect New Orleans and other downstream communities from Mississippi River floods by opening the structure to divert the flow of water into Lake Ponchatrain.

Since its completion in 1931, the Spillway has opened only eight times. The last time was in 1997 to lower river levels in New Orleans.