U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Vicksburg District Updates on Conditions in the Yazoo Backwater Area

VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District met with local Warren County officials May 10 at the district’s headquarters building in Vicksburg to provide an overview of current and forecasted conditions in the Yazoo Backwater area and discuss the implications of these conditions on Eagle Lake.

Additionally, district engineers provided an update on conditions at the Steele Bayou Control Structure and the Muddy Bayou Control Structure, located approximately 10 miles north of Vicksburg.

The Vicksburg gage on the Mississippi River is currently at 48.6 feet. National Weather Service forecasts indicate that the Mississippi River will crest near 50 feet on the Vicksburg gage by May 20. The current elevation in the Yazoo Backwater area, on the landside of the Steele Bayou Control Structure, is at 96.8 feet, while the elevation on the river side of the structure is 96.5 feet.

Pending rainfall over the next seven days, the Yazoo Backwater area has the potential to reach 97.5 to 98 feet. Predicting a specific peak stage is challenging due to the uncertainty of future rainfall, Mississippi River forecasts and timing of the closure of the Steele Bayou Control Structure.

Due to these conditions, the Steele Bayou Control Structure could potentially close as early as this weekend. Vicksburg District will continue monitoring the rise of the Mississippi River due to heavy forecasted rain in the south Delta to determine if a closure is necessary.

Additionally, the Vicksburg District is taking precautionary measures in the vicinity of Muddy Bayou Control Structure to ensure the integrity of the structure is maintained should backwater enter the lake in that area.

Current conditions have resulted in the wall under the road deck of the Muddy Bayou Control Structure overtopping with flood waters from the Yazoo Backwater area, which is the same scenario that transpired in a previous backwater peak in April 2019. The Muddy Bayou Control Structure is the drainage structure that regulates water flowing into or out of Eagle Lake through Muddy Bayou, a tributary of Steele Bayou.

As more information is available, the Vicksburg District will provide updates on these conditions.

The Steele Bayou Control Structure, which was built in 1969, combined with the Mississippi River and Yazoo Backwater levees, prevents the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers from backing up and further flooding the Delta. The Steele Bayou Control Structure’s gates are opened when elevations on the Yazoo River fall below the elevation of water in the interior Yazoo Backwater area. Under normal operations, the Muddy Bayou Control Structure’s gates are opened (allowing water to drain from Eagle Lake) when the Yazoo Backwater area’s elevations fall below the elevation of water in Eagle Lake.

The Steele Bayou Control Structure was closed Feb. 15 and reopened April 1 to allow gradual drainage of the Yazoo Backwater area. Due to above average rainfall in the region since February 2019 combined with a prolonged high-water event on the mainline Mississippi River, limited flows have drained from the Yazoo Backwater area since its opening. In March 2019, the interior Yazoo Backwater area reached its highest elevation since 1979.

District personnel and their local partners will continuing to monitor the conditions of flood control works, including levees, flood walls and pumping stations across the entirety of the district’s jurisdiction.

Citizens are encouraged to contact local authorities and management officials for updates about conditions in their area and should avoid activities on or near flood control works.

The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees.

The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,000 personnel. For more information, visit www.mvk.usace.army.mil.