By Alex Fees
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - U.S. Coast Guard officials notified NewsChannel 5 Monday afternoonthey were re-opening the Mississippi River near the Gateway Arch.
Lt. Colin Fogarty said this action came after a helicopter survey determined none of the eleven barges that sunk over the weekend posed a threat to navigation.
The river had been closed since Saturday night. About 10:30 p.m. 114 barges broke away from their moorings, likely due to high water.
"The break-away occurred in the Port of St. Louis just south of the Arch. It broke away and the barges drifted anywhere between five and 25 miles down the river. The Mississippi River has a lot of flow-rate behind it right now," said Lt. Fogarty.
Fogarty said the main operator of the barges is ACL, or American Commercial Lines. Fogarty said officials from the company have been on the scene, helping Coast Guard officials devise a salvage plan.
He said the Port of St. Louis had been shut down roughly between south St. Louis city and Jefferson County. He estimated it could take weeks or months to remove the 11 sunken barges, which carried commodities including coal, oil, and steel.
Fogarty says nothing is leaking at this point.
"No pollution reports have been made. Thank goodness. With 114 barges broken away that was a very real possibility," he said.
Fogarty said recent flooding has caused similar closures on the Illinois, upper Mississippi, and Missouri rivers. Ironically, Coast Guard officials are still dealing with paperwork from recent low water conditions caused by the draught.
Fogarty said 20 percent of all coal, and 23 percent of all petroleum products consumed in the United States pass through St. Louis on the highway that is the Mississippi River. He said each barge can carry up to the cargo capacity of 58 semi-trucks.
He said an investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the barge breakaways.
The river has risen 20-25 feet over the last two weeks.