The lingering drought continues to keep the Mississippi River at historically low levels. But now the Army Corps of Engineers says the river will likely stay open for transportation at least through this month. But many grain and energy industries that send products up and down the river aren’t yet breathing a sigh of relief. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports from the Corn Belt where a lot of grain begin its journey south down the Mississippi.
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 US Army Corps of Engineers this week began shutting flow from a South Dakota reservoir which feeds into Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis. The overall lack of water is expected to cause big problems moving freight on the river.
While the U.S. remains the world’s biggest supplier of corn, American farmers will lose a portion of the global corn market this year.
The Midwest drought devastated the normally robust corn harvest, which has led to higher corn prices and plummeting corn stocks. In a normal year, the U.S. exports more than 1 billion bushels of corn to markets worldwide, but with low domestic supply it’s a tough year for corn exporters – the USDA predicts U.S. corn exports will be at a 40-year low this year.
I left my house in Columbia, Mo., at 5:30 a.m. Thursday to make it to the Ingram Barge Co.'s Upper Mississippi River office by 8:30 am. I knew the three-hour drive had been worth it when I pulled up to the barge company’s office because the sturdy grey structure actually sits IN the Mighty Mississippi. I walked across an anchor barge that doubles as a pedestrian bridge to enter the office and passed by the R. Clayton McWhorter, a 45-foot tall, 140-foot long towboat with four decks.
Governor Jay Nixon (D) says his administration is keeping tabs on river levels along the Missouri and Mississippi as drought conditions persist across the state. He indicates that the Missouri River may be in worse shape.
“I think that the challenges on the Missouri are a little more significant than the Mississippi," Nixon said at a gathering Wednesday in Jefferson City. "Minnesota has had a fair amount of rain in that part of the country, but we’re watching those issues very carefully.”
The Army Corps of Engineers visited Cairo, Illinois on yesterday to check on reconstruction projects following last year’s devastating floods. The Corps will invest more than $100 million toward flood protection systems at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.