Low water on the upper Mississippi River
will continue to prompt dredging activities to promote safe navigation of barges and other vessels in coming months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
The Corps, which operates locks and dams and oversees river conditions on U.S. interior waterways, said in a statement that it met with commercial shippers and U.S. Coast Guard officials on Thursday to discuss problems being caused by low water.
Water levels are relatively low on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in part due to lack of snow cover last winter, which was the warmest recorded in 105 years.
"The Corps is currently surveying potential low water trouble spots in need of dredging," the statement said, adding that three locations at River mile 53.5, 80.5 and 130 had already been identified as needing dredging.
At a fourth location, river mile 166.7 in St Louis harbor, a barge had run aground on Thursday morning but was soon freed. "A survey of this area will also be conducted," it said.
A buildup of sediment on the Mississippi River north of Quincy, Ill., closed the river to traffic for several days in mid-August after a tow of 15 coal barges ran aground in the middle of the river. That stalled dozens of barges north- and south-bound and pushed barge freight rates higher as shippers scrambled to book freight.
"Weather forecasts for the remainder of the calendar year predict normal rainfall from September through December," the Corps said, noting that its mission was to maintain a minimum nine-foot navigation channel.
Shipping groups were currently advising vessel drafts on the Mississippi be limited to 9.6 feet, with north-bound tows limited to 36 barges and south-bound tows limited to not more than five barges wide, it said.