It’s largely business as usual at the present, but Capital Region companies along the Mississippi River are watching the swelling water closely as it inches toward a historic high.
Port of Greater Baton Rouge Executive Director Jay Hardman says restrictions on barge and vessel traffic are thus far having a minimal effect on port activity. Hardman says the U.S. Coast Guard will likely add restrictions as the river rises, but he doesn’t expect them to have a major impact. “Some of our tenants may be seeing some effect due to the restrictions, but we’re pretty well built out over here for high water,” Hardman says. “I think we’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, representatives from both Baton Rouge riverboat casinos, Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge, say there are no plans for operational changes just yet. “We are currently reviewing our closing procedures in the event that the river comes over the levee at or near our facility,” says Belle of Baton Rouge General Manager Jeff Michie.
ExxonMobil has activated its flood preparedness plan for its chemical plant and refinery along the river, says spokeswoman Stephanie Cargile. At this point, Cargile says, sandbags are being piled up but the river has not impacted operations.
Further downriver, in St. James Parish, Consolidated Tank Barge Services Environmental Manager Pete Maltese says the liquid barge-washing business has slowed due to traffic restrictions. Maltese says the four-year-old business is prepping for a flood. “Most of our property will be underwater, but we designed and built it to handle flooding,” Maltese says. “We’re high and dry right now, but we’re moving some things around and putting some sandbags around our facility.”
The Mississippi River is currently forecast to top out May 23 at 47.5 feet at Baton Rouge—12.5 feet above flood stage. It would be an all-time high, surpassing the 1927 flood, which saw the river rise to 47.3 feet. Levees along Baton Rouge range from 47.3 to 51 feet, and the city-parish has plans to sandbag and otherwise heighten low spots.