Dike Repairs Expected To Create Delays At Victoria Bend
Work repairing a stone dike at Victoria Bend on the Lower Mississippi River could cause major delays in transiting the area.
The work at Mile 595.5 on the left descending bank began December 2 and is expected to conclude by December 30. The river will be open 12 hours a day, but that may not be long enough to clear the queue, said Randy Chamness, chairman of the Lower Mississippi River Committee.
“There is a possibility with this project we could see significant delays in both directions,” he said.
Work will take place daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with traffic allowed to pass through from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily. After the first six days, there may be additional openings allowed to clear any significant backups, but that may not be possible during the first phase of the project, while the foundation is being put in place, Chamness said.
“As the project goes on, especially days three and four, we’re concerned we won’t have enough time to clear the queue,” he said.
The project was originally to have taken place in August, but industry leaders worked with the Corps to delay it until after the bulk of the harvest season, Chamness said. Additionally, the Corps had to complete the work before the end of the calendar year due to funding constraints, he said.
“This work had to be done, and industry knows that it’s going to be painful now, but it’s going to be less painful than it would have been in August,” Chamness said.
The Vicksburg Information Center has been established for mariners, manned 24/7 by industry representatives. All vessels are to check in to the Vicksburg Information Center by calling 601-631-3428 to be placed in the queue. Normally, the Vicksburg center is put in place during high water conditions, but Chamness said utilizing it appeared to be the best path forward as there is limited cell phone reception in the immediate area surrounding Victoria Bend.
Industry representatives hope it may be possible to open northbound traffic temporarily during the first phase of the repairs, as that would be on the far side of the river from the repair work, but that determination won’t be made until the work is already underway, Chamness said.
He noted that more work on the Lower Mississippi River is in the planning stages. On January 10, work will begin at Old Town Bend at Mile 642. That 60-day project will also require daily closures.
“Industry is still in talks with the contractor to try to mitigate delays as much as possible,” Chamness said.
Mark Wright, vice president of the southern region for American Waterways Operators, noted that industry and the Corps have worked together in addressing the issues at Victoria Bend.
“This has been discussed now for months,” he said. “This is not some kind of surprise project.”
He added that it is also important to recognize that the Corps can complete such projects only at certain times of the year based on both water levels and traffic through the region.
“There is regular contact and conversations with the Corps about operations,” he added.
Bucky Wall, deputy chief of public affairs for the Vicksburg Engineer District, noted that the closures ensure the safety of the working crew as well as mariners.
Non-working days have been scheduled throughout the duration of the work to facilitate traffic and reduce delays, he said.
“Coordination and support from navigation industry and the U.S. Coast Guard are key to the success of this project that ultimately will promote safe and reliable navigation through the Victoria Bend reach,” Wall said.
According to the broadcast notice to mariners issued by the Coast Guard, the Corps contract vessel Barbara Ann and associated barges will be working at the Victoria Bend dikes between Mile 595.0 and Mile 597.0, requiring rolling channel closures.
When the channel is open, mariners are requested to transit the area as far off the left descending bank as is safe, with no passing or overtaking, at the slowest safe speed to minimize wake and to proceed with caution after making passing arrangements with the mv. Barbara Ann.
The Barbara Ann may be contacted via marine VHF channel 16 and channel 72 or via telephone at 504-835-0303, according to the notice.