Rising River Brings Restrictions

Daytime temperatures in south Louisiana are inching up toward typical summertime highs, and so too are water levels on the Lower Mississippi River and connected waterways.

As of May 13, the Mississippi River at the Carrollton Gage in New Orleans was at about 11.5 feet and forecast to continue rising for about a week. When the Carrollton Gage rises above 11 feet, the New Orleans Engineer District initiates its Phase I flood fight, which involves weekly levee inspections within the district’s area of responsibility and construction restrictions within 1,500 feet of levees. The river in New Orleans was not forecast to come close to the 15-foot threshold that triggers Phase II flood fight measures.

Farther upriver at Baton Rouge, the river gage was at 32 feet and rising May 13 and forecast to crest above 33 feet. At those levels, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans instituted the following navigation restrictions for in and around Baton Rouge:

For southbound tows transiting Wilkinson Point between Miles 232 and 237, vessels are required to have 240 hp. per standard barge or 550 hp. per oversized barge. Barges measuring 290 feet by 50 feet or larger qualify as “oversized.” The Coast Guard noted that empty barges require half the available horsepower, and vessels with Z-drive propulsion may be considered as having 20 percent more horsepower than the engine rating. The Coast Guard said tests and inspections should be completed before vessels head downriver. The agency also recommended that line-towing companies staff vessels with their most experienced crews.

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On the Port Allen Route of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which extends from Morgan City, La., up through Bayou Sorrel Lock, and meets the Mississippi at Port Allen Lock just below the Interstate 10 bridge in Baton Rouge, the waterway was closed due to the gage at Bayou Sorrel Lock rising above 6.9 feet. With Bayou Sorrel Lock closed, the Coast Guard restricted the upper Port Allen Route to local traffic only. As of May 13, the level at Bayou Sorrel Lock was about 7.2 feet, with little change in the immediate forecast.