DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A Mississippi River towboat that partially sank just over two weeks ago is nearly ready to begin its 350-mile trip to a St. Louis-area repair facility, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said Wednesday.
Two additional small holes were discovered by divers in the boat’s hull on Tuesday but they have been patched and the boat is watertight, Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said.
“That pretty much means she is ready for us to get her out of here,” he said.
A larger 30-by-12 inch hole on the bottom of the boat had been patched earlier.
The boat struck something in the river Nov. 25, took on water and partially sank against the riverbank at LeClaire.
Investigators from the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating what caused the accident.
The Coast Guard was inspecting the vessel to ensure its seaworthiness and reviewing the transit plan. Once the plan is approved the boat will be towed from LeClaire to a dry dock facility just north of St. Louis at Wood River, Ill., about 350 miles downriver. There it will be raised from the water for permanent repair and overhaul before it resumes towing barges on the Mississippi River.
Fogarty said plans were to begin moving the boat Wednesday.
When it sank the 154-foot-long Stephen L. Colby towboat was carrying 99,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil and a significant amount spilled into the river requiring an extensive cleanup effort. That included recovering more than 88,000 gallons of oily water from the boat and nearly 40,000 gallons of oily water from the river.
“The majority of the cleanup has been accomplished but the cleanup of this operation will go forward for the next few months,” Fogarty said. “Unfortunately with the winter weather we were unable to accomplish all the rehabilitation the Coast Guard seeks to ensure in these situations.”
Below freezing temperatures moved into the area on Friday.
Monitoring of the spill area will continue for several months to ensure the LeClaire riverfront is returned to normal, Fogarty said.
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