Ferry service temporarily shut down due to shallow water

Published 7:56 pm Friday, November 24, 2006

A free ferry service hailed as a milestone in Mississippi’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina has been shut down this week due to shallow water.

The federally funded ferry service, which opened Nov. 1, had been carrying dozens of cars a day on a 1.6-mile route across the Bay of St. Louis.

An estimated 19,000 cars each day drove over the U.S. 90 bridge between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian before Hurricane Katrina washed it away Aug. 29, 2005. After the hurricane, motorists accustomed to a short drive over the bridge have endured a long detour around the bay.

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The ferry provided some relief to area residents, but the National Weather Service in New Orleans said northerly winds have been pushing the water out into the Mississippi Sound.

“The water’s just too low with the wind,” said Dietrich Giles, general manager of the ferry for Hornblower Marine Services. “We’re bumping bottom going across.”

He said similar conditions were expected through Friday.

Giles said the ferry closed around noon Monday, 11 a.m. Tuesday and around 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

It normally operates from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., with departures from Bay St. Louis on the bottom of the hour and Henderson Point on the top of the hour. One-way trips across the bay are scheduled every 45 minutes, with around 16 crossings a day.

A new bridge over the Bay of St. Louis is under construction. The ferry service, which will cost roughly $5 million, is expected to end in May when the first two lanes of the new bridge are scheduled to open.

Also under construction along coastal U.S. 90 is a new bridge between Biloxi and Ocean Springs. Mississippi Department of Transportation executive director Butch Brown said two lanes of that bridge are on pace to open in November 2007, two weeks ahead of schedule.