Legal fallout from a 2013 allision at the notoriously tricky Vicksburg, Miss. railroad bridge continued, when a federal judge refused to allow Nature’s Way Marine, Theodore, Ala., to challenge a Coast Guard administrative decision that denied the company $2.1 million in pollution cleanup costs..
The 3,000-hp, 90’x32′ towboat Natures Way Endeavor was pushing a pair of barges owned by Third Coast Towing, Corpus Christie, Texas, on Jan. 27, 2013 when one barge struck a bridge pier and broke away from the tow. The second hit too, receiving a puncture that spilled some 7,100 gals. of crude oil.
The accident closed the Mississippi River from mile marker 425 to mile marker 441, ultimately backing up more than 300 barges during the cleanup operation. Nature’s Way was in charge of the lightering and salvage operation.
On Friday in Jackson, Miss., U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves denied the company’s challenge of the Coast Guard ruling, the Associated Press reported. Nature’s Way, Third Coast Towing and insurer Great American Insurance Group are facing nearly $1.7 million in cleanup costs and penalties sought by the government. Citing its costs and liability arguments, Nature’s Way contended it should actually be reimbursed $2.1 million from the National Pollution Funds Center.
The government lawsuit alleged the tugboat pilot had not navigated under the Vicksburg rail bridge in several years, and did not line up the tow to pass under in the preferred channel. Nature’s Way says its employee was not negligent.
The bridge can be a difficult passage in times of high and fast water, with downstream tows negotiating a sharp right-hand turn and contending with flow from the Yazoo River Diversion Canal. January and February 2016 saw a series of mishaps during high water, including several incidents at Vicksburg.