by Scott Wuerz
The Mississippi River could be too shallow for barge traffic between St. Louis and Cairo in two weeks due to decreasing water levels.
According to the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, the country’s busiest inland waterway is nearly too low already for barges loaded with coal, steel and other commerce.
And it is expected to dry up considerably in the next couple of week due to the summer drought and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s move to hold back water from the Missouri River.
“Of particular concern are hazardous rock formations near Thebes and Grand Tower which threaten navigation when water levels drop to anticipated, near historic lows,” the agencies said in a joint release. “The rock formations, combined with the reduced flows from the Missouri River, will prohibit the transport of essential goods along this critical point in the river, effectively stopping barge transportation on the middle Mississippi River around Dec. 10.”
U.S Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said the river is about two feet below normal water levels. He expects it to threaten the all-time low of 6.2 feet below normal in December. The previous low water mark was set in 1940.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a controversial move, last week started to reduce to flow of water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi to make sure areas to the north have adequate water. “Congress and the Administration need to understand the immediate severity of this situation,” American Waterways Operators President and CEO Tom Allegrett said. “The Mississippi River is an economic superhighway that efficiently carries hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods for domestic use as well as national export.