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High water on Mississippi River causing headaches for coal shippers

High water on the Mississippi River continues to be an issue for coal shippers, though the impact is most severe on the upper portion of the river, sources said.

An official with Knight Hawk Coal, which operates a loading terminal at mile marker 105 on the Upper Mississippi, roughly five miles south of Chester, Illinois, said it has not been able to load a barge for the last 10 days due to high water that has covered the road leading to the terminal.

The official added that the terminal has only been operational for only “four or five days” in the last six weeks due to high water.

The flood gauge at Chester, as administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers, measured 43.62 feet as 2 pm CDT on Wednesday. Flood stage is 27 feet, while the record is 49.53 feet, set in 1993.

Last week, the US Coast Guard halted barge and boat traffic around St. Louis due to high water, and the closure was still in effect as of Wednesday, according to the department’s St. Louis office.

The St. Louis gage measured 42.29 feet as of 2 pm Wednesday; flood state is 30 feet, while the record of 49.58 feet was also set in 1993

On the Lower Mississippi River, the USCG did not report any closures, although some navigation restrictions meant to ensure tows are under adequate power are in force.
SPILLWAYS OPENED

The Corps of Engineers said Monday it plans to open the Morganza Spillway, above New Orleans, on June 2, marking just the third time the agency has opened the spillway since construction finished in 1954. A minimum of 2 weeks of operation are predicted, said the New Orleans-based Big River Coalition in an email update late Tuesday.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway, also above New Orleans, but below the Morganza Spillway, has been opened since May 10. All 168 of the spillway’s bays are opened, with total discharge recorded as 157,000 cfs as of Tuesday, according to the BRC.

This is the first year the Bonnet Carre Spillway has opened twice in the same year. It was previously opened from February 27 to April 11.

Water released from the Morganza Spillway enters the Atchafalaya Basin, while water released from Bonnet Carre enters Lake Pontchartrain.

The flood gage at New Orleans (Carrolton) measured 16.67 feet as of 2 pm Tuesday; flood stage is 17 feet, while the record of 21.27 feet was set in 1922.

A spokesman for SunCoke Energy, which operates the Convent Marine Terminal in Convent, Louisiana, said the terminal “continues to load vessels.”

An official with Associated Terminals, which operates a fleet of floating cranes, also based in Convent, said the midstreamer is operational but “has been battling high water since January, with no relief in sight.”

The draft at Head of Passes, the mouth of the river, remains at 44 feet, though the USACE is responding to active shoaling due to high water, said the BRC late Tuesday.
Source: Platts

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