MORGANZA, La.-- It was a valiant fight, but it appears Mother Nature has won.
At 1:30 a.m. Monday, April 7, floodwaters from the Mississippi River topped the fortified “Potato Levee” at the Morganza Spillway. The 2.2- mile, dirt-filled rice seed bag levee was topped by rising floodwaters, wiping out the wheat crop that lay in the forebay of the Morganza floodway.
BREACHED. Floodwaters from the rising Mississippi River top the levee at the Morganza Spillway in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. More than 3,000 acres of wheat were lost, despite farmers' efforts to construct a makeshift sandbag levee. Photo by Avery Davidson.
Wheat farmer Marty Graham and others began their fight to protect the wheat crop March 21st, Good Friday. Graham, grain and sugar farmer Ricky Rivet and several others pooled their resources and began filling seed bags with dirt and setting them on top of the levee. At that time, the Mississippi River was expected to crest about a foot above the levee. The next day soldiers with the Louisiana National Guard moved in to help the farmers at the direction of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Graham said he hoped the extra three feet of elevation would be enough to stop rising waters from flooding more than 3,000 acres of wheat already growing in the spillway.
However, heavy rains last week in the Midwest sent more water down the Mississippi. That increased the forecasted crest to more than two feet above the fortified levee.
“We were trying to hold back a minor flood and it’s just turned into a major flood,” Graham said. “There was nothing anyone could do.”
Graham estimates the flood will cost farmers in the spillway about $360,000 on top of the nearly $100,000 they spent fortifying the levee. Graham now hopes state officials will bring in pumps to move the floodwaters out of the spillway in time to plant his soybean crop.