Houston Ship Channel reopens after ITC Deer Park facility

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- A portion of the Houston Ship Channel has partially reopened for daytime operations after the ITC fire incidents.

The closure, which lasted five days, affected the areas between Tucker's Bayou and Lynchburg, but also affected incoming vessel traffic from the mouth of the passage in Galveston Bay.

More than 100 vessels were waiting to enter the Houston Ship Channel Wednesday morning, which is double the number on a typical day, according to the Coast Guard.

Ten deep draft vessels and more than 90 tugs and barges entered the waterways Tuesday. Only one of them was found to have contaminated oil from the water. Now, all vessels are being checked for signs of oily residue in the channel.

The slowdown has impacted deliveries in and out of the Port of Houston, which affects everything from the energy sector to soft goods and clothing.

A vessel delivering concrete to TXDOT for one of its construction projects is still sitting offshore, according to the Coast Guard.

"The effects of this slowdown aren't always immediate," said James Prazak, who's an industry liaison with the vessel traffic center. "Sometimes it can result in a hike of gasoline and other things."

A Port of Houston spokesperson said the channel closures can be triggered by fog as well. The port is providing fire boats to the Unified Command, which is overseeing cleanup.

Wednesday, the EPA confirmed what may be the first wildlife causality after 14 fish and a red-ear turtle were found dead beside a dock where the chemical spill reached. A wildlife team responded to the area.

Booms are being used to contain the spill, but wind, currents and vessel traffic can make those less effective, which is another reason traffic on the Houston Ship Channel has been limited.

About 16,000 barrels of foam and chemicals have been retrieved so far, according to the state.

The waiting line to get into the channel is expected to decrease over the coming days.

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