Rising Water On LMR Prompts Safety Advisory

Precipitation in Louisiana and throughout the Mississippi Valley has led to a rise on the Lower Mississippi River, prompting officials at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans to issue high water safety advisories in both New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

At press time, the Carrollton Gage in New Orleans was at about 10.6 feet and forecast to rise another foot before beginning a slow fall. Just three days prior, the river in New Orleans had eclipsed 8 feet for the third time since February. In Baton Rouge, the river gage was at 30 feet, with the river forecast to rise to 32 feet before beginning a slow fall. Similar to New Orleans, this is the third bump Baton Rouge has seen in the past two months.

In New Orleans, the latest Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) prohibits tows incapable of maintaining an average speed of at least 3 mph. from transiting VTS special areas. Deep-draft vessels are required to have three means of holding position, unless moored to the shore or a mooring buoy. Towing vessel crews should also review the MSIB from January 2019 titled “Towing Vessel Safety Advisory During High Water.” Further high-water requirements are spelled out in Title 33 of CFR 165.810.

The Coast Guard issued safety advisories for two specific portions of the Baton Rouge harbor: Wilkinson Point, between Mile 232 and Mile 237, and in the vicinity of Port Allen Lock, between Mile 219 and Mile 229.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

At Wilkinson Point, the Coast Guard advised companies to restrict tows to a maximum of 36 barges and to use a ratio of 240 hp. per standard barge or 550 hp. per oversized barge for southbound tows.

“Empty barges may be calculated at one-half the horsepower requirements to that of a loaded barge when computing the overall horsepower requirement,” the Coast Guard said in the MSIB.

According to the Coast Guard, horsepower requirements for towing vessels with Z-drives may be calculated at 20 percent higher than the engine’s actual rating.

In the vicinity of Port Allen, all tows greater than 600 feet, excluding the length of the towing vessel, “are recommended to employ an assist vessel of at least 1,200 hp. when entering the Port Allen Lock.” Tows exiting Port Allen and heading north are advised to either use an assist vessel or go southbound first and pass Mile 221 before heading north.

Port Allen Lock, meanwhile, remains closed to navigation due to cracks in the steel anchorage of one of the gates. With repair efforts underway, the current estimate is for Port Allen Lock to reopen to navigation April 28. By then, according to the forecast by the National Weather Service, the river in Baton Rouge will still be hovering around 32 feet.

Over the next two weeks, the region is forecast to receive above-average precipitation. During storms that passed through the region April 10, part of New Orleans received as much as 8 inches of rain.