Mississippi River's low levels could affect commerce

Dec 28, 2012

Mississippi River levels are dropping thanks to ice up north.
Credit Brett Ciccotelli / Flickr

The Mississippi River's water level is dropping again and barge industry trade groups warn that river commerce could essentially come to a halt by mid-January. Ice on the northern section of the Mississippi is reducing flow more than expected.

The Coast Guard remains confident that the nation's largest waterway will remain open despite the worst drought in decades.

But even if the Mississippi remains technically open, Deborah Colbert of the Waterways Council, a barge industry trade group, says further load limits will make shipping unviable by mid-January.

“The impacts have already been felt; export orders plummeting, other orders are being curtailed or cancelled altogether, companies are considering layoffs," she says. "And so again, January 15th is D-Day.”

Colbert says barge traffic is currently restricted to only one direction in certain spots.

The latest forecast from the National Weather Service has the river level at St. Louis dropping to a record low by the 16th.