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Miss. River ship traffic has new limits due dredging cost cutbacks

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    basil parmesan

    < I’m sure list of bulk cargoes also would include petcoke along with coal cargoes. – C Randall>
    Published: February 02. 2011 6:36PM
    New limits placed on Miss. River ship trafficBy CAIN BURDEAU Associated Press  

    The Mississippi River is getting so shallow in places between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that boat pilots say they will have to run deep-draft ships only during the day, including those going to a major crude oil refinery.

    This year the Army Corps of Engineers has cut back on river dredging due to budget restraints and that has caused the river to shoal in places.

    The restrictions between New Orleans and Baton Rouge were expected to delay an assortment of cargo, including fertilizer, coal, grain and oil products. Pilots at the mouth of the river set similar restrictions last week because the river is silting in there.

    On Tuesday, the New Orleans-Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association issued a notice saying it will guide ships with a draft of 43 feet or deeper only during daylight hours in one 40-mile section of river. Also, it says it will guide deep-draft ships into the Exxon Mobil refinery only in daylight hours and, starting Saturday, the group will not guide ships with a draft deeper than 40 feet to and from the refinery.

    “Absolute safety is the only reason” for the restrictions, said Michael E. Rooney, the president of the NOBRA pilots. Bob Anderson, a corps spokesman, says the agency hopes to issue a contract for a dredge next week to deepen the river channel.
    The Army Corps, facing budget restraints like other federal agencies, has set aside $63 million this year for dredging efforts. Typically, the corps spends $80 million and $100 million to keep the river open.

    The Mississippi River is a major thoroughfare to the world’s markets for grain, soybeans, pig iron, coal and many other products for 29 states and Canada. About 60 percent of U.S. grain exports cross the mouth of the Mississippi. But to keep the cargo flowing, the river needs constant tinkering.
    The Mississippi carries huge amounts of silt and sediment down river – about 200 million tons a year – and unless it is stirred up by dredges the river clogs up – and that’s what’s happening now.

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