Mississippi River crests at 43.3 feet Barge removal work set to resume Wednesday

Published 12:30 pm Friday, April 1, 2011

Attempts will resume Wednesday to remove a barge lodged beneath the Interstate 20 bridge over the Mississippi River, officials said Thursday as the flooding river crested at Vicksburg.

No traffic delays are expected while Big River Shipbuilders and Salvage completes a salvage job that has involved cutting the barge, stuck on a bridge pier since March 23, with a crane-mounted chisel.

The waterway will close to vessel traffic once work begins, and there is no projected completion date, the Coast Guard said in a news release after a strategy meeting Thursday in Vicksburg.

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The session involved the Coast Guard, state transportation officials from Louisiana and Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Highway Administration, Vicksburg Bridge Commission and Marquette Transportation, which owned the vessel pushing the 30-barge tow that struck piers on both river bridges in Vicksburg.

Farther upriver, at Thebes, Ill., the Coast Guard reopened a section of the river to vessels Thursday after a 25-barge tow hit a railroad bridge Wednesday night.

In all, four barge strikes have been reported along the Lower Mississippi River since March 20, including two in Vicksburg and one at Natchez. All are under investigation by the Coast Guard.

The river at Vicksburg, which reaches flood stage at 43 feet, stood at 43.2 this morning, down a tenth of a foot from the crest. Stages are forecast to fall slowly in the next five days, said Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.