A 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi River remains closed indefinitely to ship traffic this morning, as salvage workers drafted plans to remove a split fuel barge from beneath the Crescent City Connection in New Orleans and a half-dozen emergency spill contractors continued efforts to corral hundreds of thousands of gallons of thick, smelly fuel oil as it floated toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The reopening requires both removal of the barge from its precarious position at the edge of the shipping channel and the cleanup of a significant portion of the 419,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil that was spilled during the early Wednesday collision between the 590-foot Liberian-flagged tanker Tintomara and the barge being pulled by the tugboat Mel Oliver.
And federal and state wildlife officials were out in force along the river, helping to oversee the placement of more than 67,000 feet of boom by environmental contractors aimed at keeping oil out of wetlands and away from birds and animals.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service scientists have already spotted several oiled birds and animals, and a wildlife rescue operation is being set up in Venice to remove the material from feathers and fur.
Port of New Orleans officials estimate the closure is costing the port $100,000 a day, which does not include the losses incurred by the companies using the docks or stevedores and other workers.