Tenn-Tom Waterway Once Again Fully Open To Navigation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced May 21 the Mike Hooks dredge E. Stroud has established a pilot channel near Aberdeen Lock at Mile 357.5 on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (Tenn-Tom). With the 150-foot-wide by 9-foot-deep pilot channel in place, the full length of the Tenn-Tom is now open to navigation, following a late February flood that led to widespread shoaling on the waterway.

While the entire length of the project is open with a 9-foot depth, channel restrictions besides the pilot channel at Aberdeen remain. Above Jamie Whitten Lock, the channel at Miles 433.0, 431.0 and 423.1 is 130 feet wide, and the Corps is asking mariners to stay on the channel center line. At Mile 436.2, the channel is 140 feet wide, with pin buoys marking the channel. Then at Mile 440.3, the channel is 150 feet wide on the center line.

In the Montgomery Pool, the channel shrinks to 150 feet at Mile 410.0, with pin buoys in place.

At Mile 362.6 in Aberdeen Lake, the channel width is 150 feet. So too is the channel at Miles 353.5 and 326.0. Coast Guard buoys marking the channel are in place at those three points.

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The May 21 establishment of the pilot channel at Aberdeen brings to a close a nearly three-month effort to reopen the waterway. The Tenn-Tom saw a dramatic rise in mid- to late-February. When the waterway dropped back to normal levels, about 400,000 cubic yards of sediment had settled into the channel at Aberdeen alone. The bar at Aberdeen almost equalled the total amount of sediment the Corps removes from the Tenn-Tom in an average year. And with the crest moving slowly downstream on both the Tenn-Tom and the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, it took several weeks for the E. Stroud to mobilize to Aberdeen. The E. Stroud crew also faced weather delays while dredging the pilot channel at Aberdeen, further extending the closure.

Mitch Mays, administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, praised the Corps of Engineers and the dredge crew aboard the E. Stroud for their efforts to reopen the channel.

“We are pleased that the dredging to open the emergency channel was finally completed,” Mays said. “Given the amount of shoaling, and additional severe storms with tornadoes on two occasions that hit near the dredge work, it was a daunting task.”

Justin Murphree, operations project manager for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, said while the Aberdeen pilot channel is open to commercial navigation, work will continue for some time to return the waterway to its pre-flood dimensions.

“We expect to be dredging into November,” Murphree said.

Murphree said the Corps believes it has adequate funding to “return the system to normal.” Mays said he and other industry leaders are dedicated to ensuring that’s the case.

“The authority is still working with [the Corps] and elected officials to ensure the Mobile District receives all the funding needed to put the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway back to normal,” he said.