After nearly six months of impacted operations, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge is returning to normal, says Jay Hardman, the port’s executive director, following the lowering of the Mississippi River.
The record high water prompted port operators to change how they unloaded grain from vessels in March. A grain elevator allowed vessels to unload 1,500 pounds of grain in roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour, but without it, unloading the same amount of grain took an estimated three hours.
The Mississippi River finally dropped below flood stage on Sunday. The river rose above flood stage in early January and stayed there for a record 211 consecutive days, shattering the previous record of 135 days from 1927. The river peaked at 44.18 feet in mid-March, the seventh-highest crest on record.
Hardman says demand for pilots has also begun to stabilize; handling vessels on the flood-staged river required the use of additional pilots.
“I think everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that normal operational procedures for this region of the river were able to return,” Hardman says, adding everyone is concerned about the prolonged high river stage. “Hopefully, this was just an anomaly.”