The U.S. Coast Guard reopened the Houston Ship Channel
on a limited basis Monday, after the primary transport route in and out of the city's large oil refining and petrochemical complex was partly shut by flooding during the weekend. The Coast Guard shut down
the channel north of Baytown early Saturday, after floodwaters from Tropical Storm Allison
caused more than a dozen barges to slip their moorings and block the bulkloading facility. The southern section of the channel was closed to all but emergency traffic during that time.
The decision to reopen the channel came after Coast Guard safety crews checked the integrity of navigational markers and found they were still intact. Traffic is still limited, however.
"It's going to be on a case-by-case basis. We're really focused on outbound traffic, getting out people who were backed up here by the storm," Chief Warrant Officer Rob Wyman said.
The Coast Guard also said that about 200 barrels of oil floated away from the Shell Oil Terminal, owned by Royal Dutch/Shell.
Some 2,100 gallons of waste oil and debris also spilled at The Williams Cos. Terminal, the Coast Guard said. Both spills were contained and were being cleaned up. Rains that lingered after Allison hit Tuesday picked up fearsomely early Saturday and dumped some 35 inches (89 cm) on the Houston area. The Houston Ship Channel is a busy 54-mile (90-km) waterway lined with oil refineries and petrochemical plants that links Houston to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. - (Reuters)