|Harbor dredging begins in Hickman
|Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 9:03 pm
|By KEVIN BOWDEN
It’s now been more than a month since there’s been any barge traffic in or out of the Hickman, Ky., harbor.
Silt that accumulated from the spring 2011 flooding combined with droughts in 2010 and this summer have combined to make the Hickman harbor unnavigable to river traffic.
The water level in the harbor on Wednesday afternoon was 1.82 feet and the depth in the middle of the harbor was about three feet, according to Keleia McCloud with the Hickman-Fulton County Riverport.
Mrs. McCloud said the last barge that was loaded and traveled out of the Hickman harbor was on June 20.
“It’s going to be a slow process,” she said about the harbor dredging.
“We have lost a great deal of business,” Mrs. McCloud said.
A Corps’ cutter-head dredge arrived at the Hickman riverport Sunday night and began dredging the harbor Monday morning. The dredge is working around the clock and will be working for the next couple of weeks in Hickman, according to Jim Pogue, chief of the Corps’ Memphis public affairs office.
The dredging barge will work to cut the water depth to 15 feet in the harbor, which has be shut down on-and-off since the end of May.
The dredge consists of a river barge with a specialized unit mounted on board that uses a spinning head that is lowered into the water, according to Pogue. The head uses grinding teeth that chew up the silt on the river bottom and filter the silt out through vacuum pipes and then the silt is pumped outside the river channel.
The Hickman harbor is expected to be cleaned out by early August, according to Pogue.
Mrs. McCloud said the harbor is used heavily by agribusinesses such as Cargill, Riverfront Limestone and Bunge. She said barges have been lined up outside the harbor in the Mississippi River since the beginning of May, waiting for the harbor to reopen.
Pogue said once the dredging of the Hickman harbor has been completed, the dredge barge will then move down river to Cates Landing where it will be stationed for about a week.
As the Lower Mississippi River approaches near-record low stages, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to keep the river safe and reliable for navigation.
The Corps’ Memphis District is playing an important role in this regional, multi-agency response.
“We are closely monitoring river levels and regularly communicating with the U.S. Coast Guard and the navigation industry,” Tom Minyard, the Memphis District’s chief of engineering and construction said. “We have a number of tools at our disposal to ensure the river stays open and useable.”
The Corps is mandated to provide a minimum navigation channel that is nine feet deep and 300 feet wide on the lower Mississippi River. Dredging and long-term channel improvements help ensure commercial traffic is able to move up and down the river.
Minyard said many permanent river “training structures” like stone dikes are now in place providing better conditions than in previous low water years. The dikes project out from the bank and help speed the flow of water through certain areas, causing the river to deposit less sediment in the navigation channel.
He went on to say Corps survey boats, working with a fleet of government and commercial dredges, are aggressively responding to low water hot spots along the river.
This summer’s drought conditions — excessive heat and below normal rainfall — are having a significant impact on the Mississippi River.
Current National Weather Service forecasts call for the river to reach -8.3 feet in Memphis by August 1. This will be an amazing 56.3 feet lower than the highest reading during last year’s spring floods. The extended forecast calls for the river to continue to drop to -9.6 feet on the Memphis gauge by Aug. 22, according to a Corps’ news release.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 7.26.12