A towboat crew narrowly escaped injury when their vessel struck the Eads Bridge at St. Louis, Mo., Thursday, prompting the Coast Guard to close a five-mile stretch of the upper Mississippi River.

The 80.6’x30’x11’, 2,600-hp towboat Legacy, operated by Enterprise Marine Services LLC, Houma, La., was pushing barges downriver when the allision happened off the right descending bank.

The impact nearly sheared off the wheelhouse, but no one was injured, according to Coast Guard officials, and the crew was able to safely secure the tow.  St. Louis resident Albert M. Garcia captured the accident on video and posted it to Facebook, where it garnered more than 92,000 views over 24 hours.

A new surge of high water on the upper Mississippi has already had significant effects with reducing barge movements due to above-average rain and melt-off of historic snow falls, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly Grain Transportation Report.

On Friday morning the Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River announced a captain of the port order to shut down all vessel traffic from mile marker 179 to 184 due to extremely high water levels and fast moving currents.

Vessel operators were required to request permission to move within the closure zone from the Coast Guard at least 30 minutes prior to movement, and allowed only to “monitor or increase waterway and port safety,” according to the Coast Guard.

Outside the river closure zone, the Coast Guard urged operators to plan for southbound transits between mile marker 179 and the JB Bridge at mile marker 168.5 only during daylight hours. Restrictions will be lifted when river conditions improve, Coast Guard officials said.

For the week ending April 27, barge grain movements dropped 10 percent, compared to the previous week, according to the USDA. Compared to the same period in 2018, year-to-date grain shipments by barge of 8 million tons were down 19%, the agency reported.

Corn shipments are down even more 31% compared to 2018. Typically by May 1 “there is continuous barge traffic on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and the Gulf of Mexico,” USDA analysts noted. “This year, navigation is blocked by the closure of several locks above St. Louis and by low bridge clearances in certain areas due to high water.”


Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.