USACE: Constant Communication Brings Benefits
Near constant communication between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the navigation industry and the U.S. Coast Guard is allowing commercial barge traffic to safely pass a restricted section of the lower Mississippi River (miles 632–635) near Fair Landing, Ark., and 30 miles south of Helena, Ark., with most delays less than 10 hours.
The Corps and Coast Guard imposed river restrictions during daylight hours along this narrow river reach to allow for important repairs to the banks damaged during the Great Flood of 2011. The annual bank protection (revetment) program must be performed when river levels permit (typically between August and December). The work can’t be performed during high river stages, which typically occur during the rest of the year.
Annual revetment work ensures reliable navigation, flood control and flood risk reduction. During the last two days maintenance work at Fair Landing, approximately 60 tows pushing a total of 497 southbound and 324 northbound barges have waited.
Maj. Gen. Michael Wehr, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division, was on site today and he said: “We are committed to keeping the river open each day until the queue of barges passes the restricted area.” He added: “If for some reason the queue has not cleared by daylight, we will postpone beginning our revetment work until all of the vessels are through this section of the river.”
Commerce is able to move on the river from dusk to dawn.
The Corps and Coast Guard are also re-buoying this three-mile section of river to help widen the channel. A northbound 24 barge test tow successfully passed through the widened river section, and we understand the urgency to quickly open for larger tows. This will help speed the clearing of the daily queue as limited size northbound barges can pass the work area during daylight hours. Work is also proceeding well in the narrowest reach of the restricted area and fewer restrictions may result as early as Monday, November 17.
At that time, the sinking unit will move to a wider section of Fair Landing.
The Corps will continue its frequent dialogue with industry representatives and Coast Guard officials to deliver the high value commercial artery, and to assess the situation. Future decisions will be based on the needs of commerce and river conditions so that river traffic will experience limited delays.