Narrow transportation

First tow reaches upper Mississippi with a little help from a friend – DTN – AgFax

Recovery operations at Emsworth L/D and ice dams on the Allegheny. Photo: District of Pittsburgh, US Army Corps of Engineers

We all know the saying: “There is a first time for everything”. It suited me on March 20, when I came down to Pepin, Wis., and saw the motor vessel W. Red Harris pushing nine barges to start the 2022 navigation season from the upper Mississippi — and getting stuck in the ice of Lake Pepin. It was quite a spectacle.

Every spring when the first tow scows begin to move upriver to reach St. Paul, Minnesota, I begin following to track its progress. That Sunday, I followed him to the entrance to Lac Pepin, then he stopped. A tug group I follow on Facebook said it got stuck in the ice after entering the lake in the narrow section and then stalled in Pepin, Wisconsin where the lake widened.

Motor Vehicle (MV) W. Red Harris entered Lock and Dam 10 in the St. Paul District on March 17. As of March 16, USACE St. Paul reported that after its weekly ice measurements, Lake Pepin still had nearly 20 inches of ice in the wide portion of the lake and reported no ice that day. the. Tows pushing barges can typically traverse ice 12 to 15 inches thick.

Lake Pepin is the last major obstacle for ships reaching the head of the shipping channel in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is the largest lake in the Mississippi River located on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border and is the last part of the river to break through the ice, as the river is wider and therefore the current there is slower than it is not elsewhere. of the Mississippi River.

This year, Lac Pépin stubbornly let go of its ice, which filled the entire lake. The MV W. Red Harris, which hailed from St. Louis, Missouri, probably expected the warmer weather to melt some of that ice by the time it got there. However, once the vessel passed through the narrow opening of the lake, it became stuck and the barges it was pushing could not safely cross the thick ice.

Enter the MV Aubrey B. Harwell Jr. to the rescue! This tow was pushing barges upriver towards St. Paul behind the MV W. Red Harris and leader Anthony Belt told me they dropped their loads with the MV Roy E. Claverie, another tow behind so who headed upstream, and headed towards Lake Pepin. wade through the ice.

On March 21, the MV Aubrey B. Harwell Jr. passed the stuck tow and barges, cutting its way through the ice for the MV W. Red Harris to cross the frozen lake and head for St. Paul. After crossing the ice, the tow then returned to pick up its barges and followed the MV W. Red Harris to the St. Paul area the same day.

The timing of this year’s first tow was average. Over the past 30 years, the average opening date of the sailing season has been March 20 and in 2021 it was March 19. which happened in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The last arrival date in a year without flooding was April 4, 2008. The historic floods of 2001 delayed the arrival of the first tow until May 11,” said the Corps.

Further north in Minnesota, we are waiting for the first saltie to reach the port of Duluth-Superior to open the 2022 grain shipping season there. In mid-March, the ice cover on Lake Superior reached approximately 79%, prompting the US Coast Guard to send two ice cutters to port to begin breaking the ice. Between them and Mother Nature deciding when to warm up, all we can do is wait.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn