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Separate Barge Incidents Lead to River Woes

Sections of Mississippi River remain closed after separate incidents lead to damaged, sunk barges

Published on: Apr 22, 2013

Separate barge incidents from Friday to Sunday, coupled with flooding issues, have kept traffic on much of the Mississippi River at a standstill.

The U.S. Coast Guard Sunday closed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg after a tow struck the Vicksburg Railroad Bridge. About 30 barges carrying coal and grain were involved in the collision, all of which have been accounted for.

According to the Coast Guard, two barges are partially submerged on the river bank, one barge is aground on a dike and one barge is sunk.

Late Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard also closed the Mississippi near the Port of St. Louis to recover more than 100 barges that had broken free from their moorings.

Seven barges rest against the Marseilles, Ill., Dam after breaking free from a tow on the Illinois River, April 18, 2013. The Coast Guard, responding to the area with other agencies, reports that there are no injuries, pollution or breaches in the dam or nearby levees. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Schleicher)
Seven barges rest against the Marseilles, Ill., Dam after breaking free from a tow on the Illinois River, April 18, 2013. The Coast Guard, responding to the area with other agencies, reports that there are no injuries, pollution or breaches in the dam or nearby levees. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Schleicher)

The incident sunk nine barges of coal. Eleven barges are still unaccounted for.

On the Illinois River, a tributary to the Mississippi, the Marseilles lock and dam was closed Thursday after seven barges broke free of a tow, coming to rest against the dam.

Both the Marseilles and Starved Rock locks and dams remain closed.

The closures add to trouble on the Middle Mississippi; locks and dams 16-22 are now closed due to high water levels. The Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District Friday and Rock Island District Wednesday engaged its Emergency Operations Center to respond to high water levels and coordinate flood fighting activities.

The Emergency crew measures freeboard – the difference in elevation between the level of the water and the top of the levee. This figure is compared to the forecasted river crest to determine needed flood preparation, the Corps says.

Expected re-open date for the seven closed locks and dams on the Mississippi is unknown, though the river at each affected lock and dam has crested.

The Army Corps Rock Island District says another potential rise in Mississippi River levels may be on the way due to snowmelt runoff in Wisconsin and Minnesota.