Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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As water seeps under levee, officials to ease concern with HESCO baskets

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BATON ROUGE – Water began seeping from the ground and creating patches of moisture on streets, curbs and lawns along the Mississippi River levee south of downtown Baton Rouge Thursday.

It's a usual – and mostly innocent – sign that the river is rising. As the river nears 40 feet, seepage begins in the Baton Rouge area. In rare and more concerning situations, sand boils may develop – issues seen in the last major river event in 2011.

Authorities up and down the river are on alert in 2018, monitoring conditions but forecasters don't predict an event similar to that one.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest at about 42.5 feet later this month.

Still, city-parish leaders in East Baton Rouge are taking precautions.

HESCO baskets – sand-filled flood barriers – will be set up along the lowest stretch of Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge Saturday, WBRZ learned. The levee dips near North Street. City-parish officials said the federal government is providing the HESCO baskets at no cost.  The barriers will span a 36-foot section of the levee. 

As of Thursday, sources said emergency operations experts were not planning on deploying the orange boom system used in 2011. Then, the system snaked along the top of the levee through Baton Rouge to protect against overtopping as the river lapped at the top of the earthen levee.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway opened Thursday morning but does little to deal with rising water upriver in the Baton Rouge area. Federal river officials have not discussed plans for the Morganza floodway north of Baton Rouge, which would lessen the rising issues here.

In 2011, city-parish officials also dropped sandbags at the levee's low point near North Street. Then, they built bags to bring the levee to 51 feet.

The levee system is not one standard height. Instead, the height of levees varies along the Mississippi River. In a 2011 report on WBRZ-TV, the Army Corps of Engineers said the levee is designed in respect to the land and that as land dips and rises, so do the levees' height. Engineers said a standard height across the system would not work because of the topography of the Mississippi River bank.

In May 2011, authorities also added sand to the top of the levee for about two miles south of LSU to raise the height of the flood protection system.

Officials who discussed the plans with WBRZ Thursday insist there is no cause for alarm.


Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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