GIWW Mostly Open A Week After Hurricane Laura

Just a week after Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, La., south of Lake Charles and near where the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) crosses the Calcasieu Ship Channel, waterway managers have reopened large sections of the area’s navigable channels, though restrictions remain.

As of September 3, much of the GIWW was open. In addition, both the Mermentau River and the Calcasieu Ship Channel were open, though the ship channel was restricted to vessels with drafts 30 feet or less.

By September 3, a 40-mile section of the GIWW remained closed. Due to downed power lines and pending channel surveys, the waterway remained closed between Mile 219 (west of Harvey Lock) and Mile 260. As of September 3, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crew aboard the mv. Bienville had removed downed power lines from the waterway at the Highway 27 bridge near the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge from the waterway, though the waterway remained closed at Mile 219. To the west, at Mile 260, Entergy crews were staging equipment needed to remove the downed power line there. That line was expected to be removed from the waterway as early as September 4.

Concurrently, waterway operators and the Coast Guard bridge administration were working with community leaders to craft a plan for the operation of Black Bayou Bridge and Grand Lake Bridge, both of which cross the GIWW.

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Once power lines are removed, bridge operations set and channel surveys complete, the GIWW is expected to fully open to navigation. However, with queues building east and west of the closure, waterway managers expected a slow return to normal.

Earlier in the week, a sunken drydock near Mile 277 had been removed, which opened the waterway from Mile 260 to Mile 290 near Port Arthur, Texas. Still, the channel at Mile 277 was restricted to one way, single barge traffic and required an assist vessel, due to a trio of harbor tugs holding the refloated drydock at Gulf Copper in place.

The steady work to restore the area’s waterways came as communities in the area assessed damage wrought by a storm that brought the highest wind speeds of any hurricane on record making landfall in Louisiana. Hurricane Laura made landfall almost exactly 15 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated Southeast Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and less than a month shy of the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Rita, which also made landfall in Cameron Parish.