The Mississippi River reopened to commercial navigation on Monday afternoon along a 15-mile stretch near St. Louis after an aerial survey found that none of the 11 barges that sank in the channel over the weekend posed a risk to navigation, the Coast Guard said.
The river has been closed from mile marker 155 to 170 since late Saturday after 114 barges, primarily owned by American Commercial Lines (ACL), broke free from a fleeting area along the shoreline of the flood-swollen waterway.
All of the barges were secured and the Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ACL were coordinating plans to remove the 11 sunken barges, all of which contained coal.
A queue of at least four upriver vessels and four downriver vessels towing 79 barges formed during the 36-hour closure and should be cleared quickly as the river was open to two-way traffic.
Navigation remained restricted to one-way traffic further south, near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where 30 barges broke away from a tow on Sunday morning. One of those barges sank and at least one struck a railroad bridge.
A queue containing 28 vessels hauling about 350 barges had formed there before southbound traffic was allowed to pass on Monday morning, the Coast Guard said.
River traffic remains halted north of St. Louis as about a dozen river locks on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers remain closed due to high water following torrential rains last week.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)