One Week After Hurricane Laura, Waterway Recovery Efforts Continue

waterway damage
Downed powerline on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between Orange and Lake Charles (USCG)

By The Maritime Executive 09-03-2020 05:16:31

Port recovery efforts in the Port Arthur-Lake Charles region are still underway, seven days after Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Gulf Coast near the Texas-Louisiana border. 

An oil rig that had drifted into the offshore Calcasieu Channel has been moved back to its normal location, and the sunken dry dock in the Sabine-Neches Canal has been moved over to the bank. Before it was moved, the dry dock's blockage meant that night operations were temporarily closed in one section of the canal, creating traffic delays for barge tows, the Coast Guard said.

The Calcasieu Channel reopened Tuesday morning with a 30-foot vessel draft restriction, but many channel markers and aids to navigation remain damaged, missing or moved off of their assigned location. “Mariners should use extreme caution transiting through waterways in Lake Charles and Port Arthur due to aids to navigation outages and floating debris,” said Chief Warrant Officer Matt Fonville, Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, aids to navigation officer. “We are still assessing damages but our teams are working extremely hard to recover and set aids back on their assigned position."

Meanwhile, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway remains closed between the cities of Lake Charles, Louisiana and Orange, Texas due to downed high-tenion powerlines at mile marker 260. The electrical utility Entergy is working to clear the blockage. This closure has shut down barge traffic on the Port Arthur-Lake Charles stretch of the waterway, which handles an average of roughly 100 towboats per day. The 1,300-mile canal is a vital artery for the large concentration of petrochemical plants and refineries along the Gulf Coast. 

Two additional powerlines that were downed by the storm have been cut, according to the Coast Guard, but they still partially impede the waterway. Two drawbridges are operating at reduced capacity due to power outages - one at Grand Lake and one at Black Bayou, both located to the east of the downed powerline and south of Lake Charles.