Dredging contract awarded as Mississippi River falls

Published 10:50 am Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Covington, La. company has won a lucrative contract to dredge the Mississippi River at spots expected to go low in the coming weeks.

Weeks Marine Inc. was awarded a $4.3 million contract for work that will focus on shallow draft ports and harbors between Greenville and Claiborne County, according to a release Monday. The ports in between are Vicksburg, Rosedale, Yellow Bend, Lake Providence and Madison Parish.

It’ll involve clearing out shallow mouths of waterway at each location, said Eugene Wall, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District. The company’s Dredge Boringuen is expected to leave Vicksburg and be on the river starting about Oct. 27, Wall said. The dredge will wrap up at Rosedale, around Dec. 9, Wall said. Corps-owned dredges are working the Mississippi and Red rivers through mid-September.

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Announcement of the dredge coincided with river forecasts showing a steady drop in the coming weeks. Stages at Vicksburg were — 21.21 feet this morning, down — four-tenths of a foot. Levels are predicted to be below 12 feet at the gauge at the river bridges by Oct. 22. At Memphis, the river gauge is projected to show minus 0.8 feet by that time. Gauge readings up and down the river are tied to elevation statistics and, in times of exceptionally low water, can show readings below zero feet.

North of Vicksburg, work to repair a subsurface scour hole in Steele Bayou will continue through at least mid-November.

A hole developed downstream of the bridge over the bayou along Mississippi 465, prompting the repair job, the Corps has said. Intermittent traffic halts between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. are expected as work continues. Fishing and boating along the channel from the Steel Bayou Control Structure to the Yazoo River has been prohibited during the construction.

In 2012, drought conditions over much of the nation contributed to near-record levels on the Lower Mississippi River system, affecting shipping and halting barge traffic. Silt buildup from the record-breaking flood the year before was cited for adding to the headaches for river commerce. In Vicksburg, the level fell to minus 1 foot on Aug. 29, 2012, its lowest of that year. The record low is minus 7 feet, set in 1940.