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Cairo fishing.JPG

Delores Griffin fishes in a flooded Ohio River at Fort Defiance State Park in Cairo earlier this month.

NEW ORLEANS — With high water setting longevity records on the Mississippi River, officials say they may have to open a spillway west of Baton Rouge for the third time ever. A spillway north of New Orleans is already open.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that he will soon ask for a federal disaster declaration to set up potential aid for protective measures and debris cleanup. He declared a statewide disaster Feb. 27 because of the threat of flooding.

Opening the Morganza Floodway would inundate 25,000 acres of farmland, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said during a news conference with Edwards, live-streamed from Baton Rouge. He said he has advised farmers to move livestock, crawfish traps and other equipment out of the floodway, and asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a disaster declaration.

If rain in the Arkansas and Missouri river valleys meets current forecasts, Morganza would be partly opened to keep the Mississippi River from flowing over it and making it impossible to open further, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyett said earlier. The opening could be as early as June 2, he said.

"The rain we're looking at has yet to fall. We'll see what happens," Boyett said.

Both the Morganza and Bonnet Carre spillways were built after the great flood of 1927, which killed hundreds and left many more homeless. The Morganza Spillway was previously opened in 1973 and 2011.

Edwards said a decision whether to open Morganza probably will be made by May 28. If it is to open, authorities will decide whether to sink a barge in Bayou Chene, south of Morgan City, as a temporary floodgate to protect five parishes, he said.

Area residents are upset that hasn't already been done, The Daily Review reported.

The Mississippi River has set records for the number of days at flood stage at Baton Rouge and at Natchez, Mississippi, National Weather Service hydrologist Kai Roth said. The Ohio River has done the same at Cairo, he said.

"At Baton Rouge, the old record was 135 days, set in 1927. It's currently at 138 days above flood stage," he said.

Natchez has been at flood stage for 139 days, eclipsing the 90 days in 1973, and the Ohio at Cairo has been at flood stage for 105 days, up from 97 in 1973.

Edwards said the state transportation department will try to reopen a half-mile stretch of Louisiana 70 in St. Martin Parish by creating temporary dams alongside the highway and then pumping water out.

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