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The Morganza spillway is located about 45 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, and if opened, will send water into the rural area between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers in central Louisiana. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg) The Morganza spillway is located about 45 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, and if opened, will send water into the rural area between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers in central Louisiana. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) — A major barrier that keeps the Mississippi River in its current path may be opened for just the third time in its history, potentially flooding a large part of rural Louisiana and affecting refineries in the region.

Rising river levels could force the Army Corps of Engineers to divert water by opening the Morganza Floodway — a long dam-like structure that is designed to redirect 600,000 cubic feet per second of water to take pressure off the Mississippi. The river has been high or flooding since last October, engorged by huge rainfalls that have slowed crop planting in the Great Plains and the upper Midwest.

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