Mississippi River still remains low
by Rory Doyle
Oct 09, 2012 | 1889 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Mississippi River remains less mighty as extremely low water levels continue to limit barge traffic as they have for months.

Droughts across the nation have led to the low levels, which have caused major problems for businesses transporting on the river.

The National Weather Service River Forecast Center reported -0.1 feet on Monday out of Arkansas City, the closest reading to Bolivar County.

Port of Rosedale Director Robert Maxwell said shipments out of the port continue to be light loaded, causing industries to ship significantly less on each barge.

"The water's come up a little from when it was at its lowest, but really, everything is about the same as it has been for a while," said Maxwell.

Maxwell said there's no way to know when levels will rise, but significant rainfall in the upper reaches of the Mississippi River Valley could help as the water works its way south.

"I don't have a clue as to how long it will be until we see relief, but I think it's going to be several months before we see anything substantial," he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has established a nine-foot draft on barge loading, meaning a barge should rest no more than nine feet below the surface of the river.

Anything lower could cause barges to run aground, as many have in the past months.

Low water not only limits loading, but also creates safety concerns for traffic on the river.

Currents can get faster and more dangerous when levels are lower, making barges more difficult to navigate.

"We haven't really had issues with danger in the port, but we are remaining cautious and working on limited operations," said Maxwell.

JANTRAN, Inc., the barge towing company housed at the Port of Rosedale, has also been impacted by the low water.

"This has been challenging to say the least," said JANTRAN Dispatch Manager John Janoush. "Conditions are making us spend more than double the time to do things — it's aggravating and real slow.

"One of our main concerns is grounding a barge and putting a hole in it. Luckily that has happened to us yet."

While the Corps has completed dredging in Rosedale and Greenville, dredging began at the Port of Vicksburg on Oct. 1.

Tropical Storm Isaac provided a slight relief from the ongoing drought, but the river quickly returned back to lower stages.

The extreme lows have even revealed the remains of a World War II ship that was ripped from the St. Louis riverfront during floods in 1993.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Oct. 3 that the remains of the USS Inaugural are now visible on the river close to St. Louis.

The USS Inaugural was a fleet minesweeper during World War II first launched in October of 1944.