On Thursday, the inlet was opened to smaller vessels with a 6-foot draft, but a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Friday the contractor working on the project might have to bring a boat from Mobile, Alabama, to hoist up the barge wreckage.
FORT PIERCE — The Army Corps of Engineers has hired an international marine salvage firm to work as quickly as possible on removing a sunken barge blocking the Fort Pierce Inlet.
“It’s an emergency,” Army Corps spokeswoman Susan Jackson said of hiring Resolve Marine Group of Fort Lauderdale, overnight Wednesday night. The company worked with the oil rig fire and spill in the Gulf of Mexico and with the recovery of the passenger ship Concordia off Italy.
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said it is too early to say when the federal navigation channel at Fort Pierce Inlet will be reopened.
FORT PIERCE — While federal officials continue looking into how to remove a barge that sank in the heavily used Fort Pierce Inlet, boaters are being diverted 20 miles north or south to other ocean inlets, according to Coast Guard officials.
The 100-foot by 40-foot barge broke up and sank Tuesday, claiming the life of a man who lived in a cabin on it. The barge went down in the middle of the ship channel, about 100 yards inside the end of the ocean jetties.
That was in 40 feet of water, but the wreckage — including the cabin and other gear — could be as close as 10 feet from the surface, officials said.
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said it is too early to say when the Fort Pierce Inlet will be reopened. A team from the Army Corps of Engineers is to be at the inlet today to help out.
The hundreds of boats that regularly use the inlet are being diverted either to the Sebastian Inlet near Sebastian or to the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart. However ships at the Coast Guard Station, at the Fort Pierce Inlet, can still get out if need be.
At the Indian River Terminal, the closure is delaying deployment of a dredge into the ocean to help with renourishing beaches south of the inlet, said terminal spokesman Ken Roberts.
It also could delay the arrival of a barge through the inlet that’s coming in for repairs Friday.
“Can I put a number on economic impact, no,” said city of Fort Pierce Marina Director Dean Kubitschek. “It is having an effect on commercial charter boat operations and marinas.”
The barge was being towed along the coast from Key Biscayne to Georgia. When it began taking on water, it diverted into the Fort Pierce Inlet, ran into strong tides and sank.
FORT PIERCE — The Fort Pierce Inlet is closed Wednesday after a barge that was being towed sunk early Tuesday evening in the inlet, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Fireman Mark Umphrey with the Coast Guard Station in Fort Pierce said as of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the inlet is closed and that boats can’t go in or out.
Fishing charter operators were turned back Wednesday morning. Capt. Tris Colket of Last Mango charters said the Fort Pierce Police Department Marine Unit turned 21 boats around Wednesday morning.
Umphrey did not know when the inlet would reopen.
The barge began sinking about 6:30 or 7 p.m. Tuesday, as it was being towed by a tug named the Main Office, said Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.
Rios said the Coast Guard sent boats and a helicopter, and recovered one person and a dog out of the water. The Coast Guard continued looking for a second person. The condition of that person wasn’t clear.
Rios said the barge already was submerged when Coast Guard officials arrived.
Catherine Chaney, St. Lucie County Fire District spokeswoman, said rescue crews treated a man in his late 50s at the Coast Guard station, but she said he declined to be taken to a hospital.
Rios, based in Miami, said officials used markers to designate the location of the submerged barge and alert others to the hazard to navigation.
Rios could provide little other information, such as the origin or destination of the vessels.
Staff writer Ed Killer contributed to this report.
FORT PIERCE — Two people and a dog were rescued from a sinking barge by U.S. Coast Guard crews Tuesday near the Fort Pierce Inlet.
Coast Guard crews went to the mouth of inlet after 6:30 p.m., said spokesman Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.
Markers have been around the sunken barge to help prevent boaters from hitting it.
One person was missing and later found by the Coast Guard. The person was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in critical condition.
Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To A “Navigation Alert” Position at Fort Pierce Inlet