Coast Guard Reopens Portion of Mississippi River

New Orleans - Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Burnett, a reservist at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, observers high water conditions along the Mississippi River, May 15, 2011. Every day Sector New Orleans dispatches teams comprised of pollution investigators, waterfront facilities inspectors, and waterways management representatives, to patrol the banks of the Mississippi River and identify and report all potential public safety, environmental, and navigation hazards. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Lt Brian Sattler.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Lt Brian Sattler.

NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector Lower Mississippi River has reopened the section of the river, Tuesday, which had been closed as a measure to prevent damage to flood protection structures.

After close coordination with all stakeholders, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mayor of Vidalia, Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector Lower Mississippi River, Capt. Michael Gardiner, has reopened the river from mile marker 350 to 365 with tight traffic control, allowing only one tow vessel at a time to transit the area to ensure the integrity of the flood protection structures in place.

“I’m very pleased with the cooperation of the involved stakeholders, especially the Mayor and local officials of Vidalia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives of the towing industry,” said Gardiner.

That section of the river was closed to river traffic, Sunday night, after reports of sand erosion near flood protection structures were originally thought to have been caused by vessel wakes, but are now believed to have been caused by an underground pipe that runs underneath the structures.

“We have been able to allow to safely pass several test tows through the safety zone we have established in the Vidalia-Natchez area. We will continue to closely monitor transits through the area to ensure the safety of the communities, as well as the towing vessels and their crews,” said Gardiner.

This segment of waterway is likely to close again if the Natchez, Miss., gauge reaches 62.5 feet due to concerns related to the height of water on the levees immediately south of the towns of Vidalia and Natchez.

Coast Guard Captains of the Port are continually reviewing the need for, and implementing, safety zones, river restrictions and marine safety information bulletins to ensure the safe navigation of maritime traffic.

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