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6 Investigates: Plan in place to free barges on San José Island

Posted at 8:29 PM, Dec 26, 2019

PORT ARANSAS, Texas — For more than two years, locals have wondered about the future of six barges, stuck in the dunes on San José Island since Hurricane Harvey parked them there in August 2017.

At the time, the barges belonged to Higman Marine. The Kirby Corporation bought Higman in 2018, and since then, Kirby officials have been working on a plan to free the barges.

“The barges will be placed on roller bags and they'll be brought to the water's edge, then re-floated and taken away to a shipyard,” said the Kirby Corporation's Vice President of Media and Government Affairs Matt Woodruff.

According to Kirby's plan, crews will cut a 200-foot-long by 300-foot-wide gap through the dunes to get the barges to the roller bags. Only five to 15 people will be working at any one time, and all work will be done during daylight. Once work is finished, crews will turn their attention back to the island itself.

“Once that process is complete, the dunes and other vegetation will be restored to pre-incident condition,” he said.

According to Woodruff, Kirby has the permits it needs to start work, and equipment is currently being mobilized for the project. Work should start in either February or March, to avoid the busy season.

“One other thing you have to think about in an operation like this is what is the right time of the year to do a project like this, in order to minimize the impact on the resources,” said Woodruff.

Once work starts, it should take about a month to get the barges clear of the island and out of the ship channel. Kirby officials say once the barges are repaired and inspected, they'll likely go back into service.