River Traffic Halted By Drought

August 21, 2012 05:58 AM

The US Army Corps. of Engineers is hard at work on the Mississippi River where water levels are approaching historic lows. The record low came in 1988 when water levels reached minus 10.7 feet. River levels in the Memphis area Friday measured at minus 8.5 feet. Four dredges are working steadily to both deepen and widen the river but at a pace of .12 miles per hour, it could take some time.

Engineers must keep the river 300 feet wide and at least 9 feet deep to allow traffic to pass freely. A ship ran aground earlier this month near Greenville, Miss and sections of the river have been subject to closure ever since. The low water is also making life difficult at docks and terminals as vessels are increasingly more difficult to load and unload.

This comes as no surprise in a year like this. Pro Farmer reported (click here to see the story) on July 31 of this year that barges were already carrying less cargo with each trip. 97 barges carrying mostly agricultural cargo now are forced to wait for the Army Corps. of Engineers to dredge a navigable channel before continuing up and down the river.

Lighter payloads, challenges loading and unloading and now delays on river passage all add up to a heftier shipping bill for goods moving up and down the river. This extra expense could wind up costing the end user in higher prices for inputs...and until barges are able to move freely up and down the Mighty Mississip', the cost will continue to rise.


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