Boats on Mississippi weathering Isaac, but low water remains concern

MISSISSIPPI RIVER — The Coast Guard said vessels along the Mississippi River were weathering Tropical Storm Isaac today and there were no reports of loose barges.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets said the river remained closed to shipping.

The Coast Guard and port officials were expected to begin inspecting conditions today as a first step toward reopening the river, which was closed on Monday as the storm neared the coast. About 10 ships are waiting to enter the river about 100 miles south of New Orleans. Most were cargo ships, but a cruise liner was due to arrive on Thursday as well.

Tippets said the Coast Guard is readying other storm relief efforts. He said helicopters were on standby in case they are needed for additional rescues.

Early Thursday, an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew hoisted a family and their two dogs from a home in LaPlace as storm surge poured into their neighborhood.

They were taken to New Orleans and were reported in good condition.

The Coast Guard received a call for help from local authorities shortly after midnight.

“The husband and wife and their two dogs were in an area where a lot of houses washed away,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Porto. “They used a flashlight inside the house as a signaling device, which made all the difference in locating them effectively.”

LaPlace and other communities in St. John the Baptist Parish upriver from New Orleans were hit with flooding as Isaac’s winds shifted south and drove in water.

While the news from the river related to Isaac was positive, the low water level remains a high concern.

Due to the continued extreme low water conditions, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Vicksburg District (District) reports it and its partners are “working diligently to maintain continued access to ports and navigational channels throughout the District’s area of responsibility. “

The District says the historic flood of 2011 displaced more than average sediment deposits in the river channel and ports. The current extreme low-water conditions and decreased river flow drastically affect normal sediment movement and make normal dredging extremely difficult.

The Dredge Jadwin is currently working at the Lakeport area on the Mississippi River, which is approximately five miles south of the U.S. 82 bridge near Greenville.

The District has contracted dredging companies to assist with the task of dredging shallow draft harbors and ports in the area. The Dredge Butcher, operated by the Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company, is currently at Lake Providence Harbor until late September.

The Dredge America, operated by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, is currently dredging at Blue Cane on the Ouachita/Black River, with an estimated completion date of Aug. 30.

The Dredge Integrity, operated by the Inland Dredging Company, is currently at Mile 39 of the Red River, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 3.

The Dredge Iowa, Operated by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company is now under contract with the Vicksburg District and is in route to the Greenville Harbor.

The District says it continues to respond to adverse low water conditions on the Mississippi River and ports by utilizing additional federal funding and adjusting the dredging schedule. If river levels continue to fall, the District may be forced to focus on maintaining access to the larger ports in the area.

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