Steele Bayou gates could be opened Wednesday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Joey French, left, and brother-in-law Chuck Ashley fish for striped bass in the flood water along Mississippi 465 Monday.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[06/11/02]With the Mississippi River now falling rapidly, draining of the Lower Mississippi Delta through the Steele Bayou Control Structure could start Wednesday.

The Mississippi River crested at 45.4 feet on the Vicksburg gauge eight days ago and had dropped 4.2 feet by today.

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With falling stages on the Mississippi, the Yazoo is also falling, meaning water that has gathered inside a levee that protects the Lower Delta can be released.

Wayland Hill of the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers said Steele Bayou gates will be opened Wednesday morning as soon as the water level on the river side of the structure drops below the level on the land side. He said the water level on the land side was at 88 feet mean sea level this morning and at 89 feet on the river side.

“There were about 88,000 acres flooded in the sump area” at the peak elevation, Hill said. “Of that 56,000 acres was cleared.”

Once the water is off the cleared land, planting or replanting may occur. Farmers have until about the end of June to get crops started.

Hill said with the rains expected in the Mississippi and Yazoo river valleys, the water level in the Lower Delta should be back to about 80 feet mean sea level by June 20.

The Mississippi River should be down another 4.5 feet to a reading of 37.7 feet at Vicksburg by Saturday, said Ethan Jolly, a forecaster at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La.

“Once it gets around 37.7 feet, it will probably level off and it may rise slightly, but it won’t get above flood stage again in the foreseeable future,” Jolly said.

He said the river is rising a little at Cairo, Ill., but should level out at about 5 feet below flood stage there by Friday. Cairo is where the Ohio River joins the Upper Mississippi to form the Lower Mississippi River and is located about 517 river miles north of Vicksburg.

Jolly said rains falling in the upper part of the Mississippi basin should not have a large effect on the river levels here.