Stephen Chustz’ telephone started ringing off the hook when the Atchafalaya River stage at Butte La Rose dropped to the 4.5-foot level in mid-April.

At that time of the year, the Atchafalaya River’s usually around 15.0 feet, give or take a few feet, and in no hurry to fall, thus giving the Atchafalaya Basin its annual bath from the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee to the East Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee. And usually it stays up until, based on the past 36 years, mid-June or early July.