Awareness: The Lower Mississippi River - update

Following our previous awareness newsletter issued on March 1 2019, Norwegian Hull Club has continued to monitor the Lower Mississippi River conditions. We have recently been advised that flood-stage conditions are likely to continue well into May and possibly into June.

The Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center forecasts a late Spring pulse with possibilities for a 16-17+ foot river level. More detailed information and forecasting of local river conditions can be found at:  https://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php

 We have also been advised by Admiralty Partner Michael Butterworth of Phelps Dunbar that we start seeing river currents of 4-5 knots at 15 feet and currents of 6 knots at towards 17 feet. It is also understood that the US Army Corps of Engineers is contemplating opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway for the second time this high river season, in an effort to keep the Carrollton Gauge below 17 feet. This will allow the levees around New Orleans to cope with the mid-May pulse of high water surging down from the north. Caution should be taken when transiting the Bonnet Carre Spillway, if it is open. When last opened on February 22nd, the US Coast Guard published a MSIB (Marine Safety Information Bulletin) XIX, Vol. 20, “Waterway Status - VTS Measure MM 127 - 129 AHP LMR, Bonnet Carre Spillway Opening”, with the following relevant information/warning to mariners:

"Vessel Traffic Service Lower Mississippi River (VTS LMR), in accordance with the Navigation Safety Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations Title 33, Subpart 161.11, will establish a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Measure for the waters of the Lower Mississippi River from Mile Marker (MM) 127 Above Head of Passes (AHP) to MM 129 AHP. This Measure is needed to protect persons and vessels from the potential safety hazards associated with U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway on or about February 28, 2019. This Measure is in effect with the following provisions:

Effective at 0700 on February 26, 2019, vessels shall not enter the Bonnet Carre Anchorage or the area extending 600 feet into the river from the Bonnet Carre Spillway, between MM 127 and MM 129 and the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain (located between 30°4′30.6N, 90°24′6.6W and 30°3′20.9″N, 90°22′18.9W). This VTS Measure will remain in effect as long as the Bonnet Carre Spillway remains open. All vessels are prohibited from entering this area without permission from the Captain of the Port New Orleans or designated representative.

There may be unexpected crosscurrents or eddies that occur due to the water being diverted from the river into the spillway. Mariners are reminded to exercise due caution and stay toward the Right Descending Bank (RDB) while navigating through this area".

All of this translates to a river system operating with little-to-no-margin for error. Numbers of groundings and wharf damage incidents are up, with some 40-plus known incidents involving lost or stuck anchors. River current conditions are approaching, or may be beyond, the design capacity for ordinary anchor windlasses and anchor-chain connecting links. If long delays are expected at anchorage, it is not uncommon for anchors to become buried in up to 10-15 metres of silt. Such an increase in incidents has led to an extreme shortage of anchors available in the area, with the next shipment not due from China for several weeks. This could prove problematic in the event of an incident between now and the end of the season.

We would recommend that extra precautions are taken for transiting the Mississippi River between now and the end of this seasons’ flood conditions.


7. May. 2019