Coast Guard takes action to keep commerce moving

Coast Guard 8th District NewsMORGAN CITY, La – Members of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City are staffing the Atchafalaya Branch Incident Command Post, Tuesday, in response to the rising water levels in the Atchafalaya Basin.

The Atchafalaya Branch ICP, under the direction of the branch director, Capt. Jonathan Burton, commanding officer, MSU Morgan City, stood up Saturday, May 14. The Atchafalaya branch operates under the oversight of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans’ ICP. The focus of the ICP is to manage the safety of commercial vessel traffic and manage assets during search and rescue operations and pollution response.

Due to the high water levels in the area, the Atchafalaya River and Morgan City Port Allen Route have been closed to marine traffic since Monday, May 16.  Vessels transiting from Morgan City to Baton Rouge must transit the Intracoastal Waterway to New Orleans, then north on the Mississippi River. This detour adds about 130 miles to the transit.

The closure of Bayou Chene does not impact commercial traffic.

“The safe facilitation of commerce is our goal,” said Burton. “We intend to keep traffic on the rivers moving as long as the status of the river does not exceed what we believe to be minimum safe operating parameters.”

The ICP is also focused on maintaining a ready posture for the possibility of any SAR in the area due to backwater flooding.

“We’ve brought in and are using Disaster Assistance Response Teams, which are strategically located around the basin to affect expedited responses.  These teams are currently coordinating with the various Parish representatives and the Louisiana National Guard,” Burton said.

The ICP also allows for timely response to any reports of pollution potentially caused by the flood.

Air support assets from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., are potential search and rescue and pollution response needs. Two of MSU Morgan City’s 25-foot response boats continue harbor patrols and address issues as they are found.

Known or potential pollution should be reported to the National Response Center at 800-424-8802, and all reports should contain the location and descriptive information of the pollution incident.

More information on river restrictions and closures can be found at www.homeport.mil and www.floodresponse2011.com

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