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Federal officials give approval to opening Morganza spillway

Friday, May 13, 2011 ~ Updated 5:33 PM

LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. (AP) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is saying federal officials have been given approval to open a Louisiana spillway as early as Saturday to avert a Mississippi River disaster in places like Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Jindal said Friday that the Army Corps of Engineers had received permission to open the Morganza spillway for the first time in 38 years to relieve pressure on river levees. The corps says it will open the spillway when the river flow reaches a certain point, but an exact timing wasn't known. However, that flow rate is expected to happen Saturday.

If the spillway had remained closed and the levees had failed, New Orleans could've been under as much as 20 feet of water.

Instead, water will be diverted into the Atchafalaya River and will roll to the Gulf, soaking a couple of thousand square miles in rural Cajun country.

The corps earlier blew up a levee in Missouri to ease the flooding worries there.

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