Monday, April 24, 2006

Is MR-GO Here To Stay?

Many residents of New Orleans East and St. Bernard would like to see the MR-GO go away, however:

Almost all proposals to close the MR-GO -- and there are many -- actually would keep the channel open in some fashion. Several proposals would add gates to control storm surges. Others involve restoration projects to shore up the waterway's banks, and the reduction of the channel's 40-foot depth to anywhere from 12 to 28 feet. But the MR-GO, originally 650 feet across and now as wide as 2,000 feet in some stretches, still would be there. Filling it in and turning the clock back to 1957 is not considered a viable option.
According to the article, the closing and filling in of the MR-GO appears unlikely. Most of the proposals are for letting Mother Nature take its course and allow it to silt-in or maintain channel depth adequate for shallow-draft vessles to navigate.

For now, the corps, which built and maintains the channel, has requested $350 million for a pair of navigable floodgates that could be closed when major storms threaten the region. One would be at the Paris Road bridge along Interstate 510 north of Chalmette, the other at the Seabrook Bridge near Lakefront Airport, at the back end of the Industrial Canal where water flowing through the MR-GO enters Lake Pontchartrain.

The floodgate at the Paris Road Bridge would be at least 36 feet deep, said the corps' Al Naomi, leaving unsettled the question of whether the channel should be shallower. Naomi said that depth is needed to accommodate operations to the east of the bridge along the Michoud Canal, but would not preclude a shallower MR-GO in the future.

The corps has said levees near the floodgates will be raised to handle any added stress caused if storm surges get bottled up against the gates. No particulars have been offered, and St. Bernard officials fear their parish could get swamped again if the floodgates are built and the levees don't hold.

Gates may be adequate as a temporary solution to the risk of storm surge but New Orleans and St. Bernard need a much longer solution for the problem of salt-water intrusion into the surrounding marshes.

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