Mississippi River traffic near St. Louis expected to barge right in

January 12, 2013 by  

Federal officials have been quoted in a recent article as saying they are confident a vital stretch of the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri, where water levels have been dropping due to the prolonged drought in the Midwest, will remain open to barge traffic. It was previously feared that the shallow water would force barge traffic to stop, impacting shipping throughout the region.

Now, however, the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for keeping the river navigable, says its crews have made “fantastic” progress in clearing out a channel near Thebes, Illinois, south of St. Louis, where dropping water levels have revealed bedrock. The engineers have been removing the rock to keep the channel deep enough for barges to have safe passage. Barge captains worry that if the water level in the channel gets low enough, weight limits for the barges will be changed, resulting in a virtual shutdown of river operations.

More good news came from the Coast Guard, when Lt. Colin Fogarty noted that while it is still possible that traffic could be shut down, that scenario seems more and more unlikely. The Corps’ progress in clearing the Thebes channel, coupled with water releases from two Midwestern lakes into the Mississippi River, should keep the river safe for barges for now.

This situation will alert anyone in the St. Louis area who moves cargo on the Mississippi, so barge operators might consider working with brochure printers to devise a publication reassuring shippers that cargo is still moving, and discussing any schedule changes necessitated by the changing water level.