Closure of Tennessee River to commercial traffic is costing Chattanooga businesses that rely on barges

Closure of Tennessee River to commercial traffic is costing Chattanooga businesses that rely on barges

February 15th, 2019 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Water flow through the open spillway gates at Chickamauga Dam Thursday as a cyclist reaches for her bike after recording a cell phone photo of the extremely high water.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga companies that use barges on the Tennessee River have grappled with the closure of the Tennessee River to commercial traffic for the past week, and they're worried about a continuing shut down.

Rick Hooper of Steel Warehouse in Chattanooga said Friday the closing of the river to barge traffic due to high and swift waters has caused the processing company to shift to rail and truck.

Andre and Vickie Harriman stroll along the Tennessee Riverwalk as Chickamauga Lake water crashes through the open gates at Chickamauga Dam where large quantities of lake water flows through the spillways on Thursday.

Andre and Vickie Harriman stroll along the Tennessee...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

"It increases our cost," said Hooper, adding that forecasts of heavy rains next week don't look promising. "Next week isn't much better."

He said the duration of the closure of the river has been unusual.

"Usually it's a short duration," he said. "This is a longer span than we're used to."

Pete Serodino, president of the Chattanooga-based barge-traffic handler Serodino Inc., said the U.S. Coast Guard shuts down the river to commercial traffic because of worries about where it passes through the Grand Canyon of Tennessee, just down river from Chattanooga.

The shut down affects any business involved in the transportation of commodities by water, Serodino said.

"We've already been closed a week. It affects your business," he said. "There's a ripple affect."

Hooper, general manager of the steel processing company located at the Centre South Riverport off Amnicola Highway, said his business has one barge on the river with materials which it can't move.

But, he said, the company has been able to shift everything else around using rail and trucks.

"In the last go-around, we had three or four barges stuck until they were freed up," Hooper said.

Serodino said the closure of the river usually happens a couple of times a year. He said he couldn't predict when the Tennessee would reopen this time.

"Can you tell me when it's going to stop raining?" Serodino asked.

Consistent rain and some flooding are expected across the Tennessee Valley this weekend and into next week, according to weather forecasters. Up to six to eight inches or more of rain is possible, projections said.

Showers Friday night are to continue through early Saturday morning. But, scattered showers are expected to occur Sunday with forecasts calling for a wet pattern next week.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.


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