Falling water levels threaten Mississippi barges
Vital barge shipments have already been disrupted as an ongoing drought hits the key artery of the nation’s inland waterway system.
Commercial traffic along America's busiest waterway is in danger of grinding to a halt as a record drought continues across much of the U.S.
The U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard are keeping federal and state officials briefed on the state of the Mississippi River, which normally carries close to $3 billion in commodities every January.
But this month has been far from normal when it comes to water levels along the historic river.
Reuters reports the Corps has been dredging parts of the Mississippi for six months now to give barge traffic the "draft" or depth of nine feet needed by most commercial vessels.
They've also been working to remove rocks from the river bottom at a potential choke-point south of St. Louis, Mo., near the Illinois towns of Grand Tower and Thebes, by the middle of January -- around the time the river is expected to reach dangerously low levels.
The Corps is also releasing water from some Midwestern lakes and reservoirs to keep water levels along the mid-Mississippi from dipping too low.
The University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute calls the Mississippi "the most critical artery" of America’s inland waterway system. The river, it notes, transports more than 90% of U.S. corn and soybean exports to the Gulf of Mexico. Many energy utilities also rely on river barge shipments of coal and oil.
Shipping organizations say the low water levels have hurt commercial traffic along the Mississippi for months, in some cases doubling transit times, reducing the size of barge shipments and cancelling some orders. And they’re looking for continued assistance from the federal government to keep those water levels up.
"If a barge has a 14-day transit time from loading to the low points on the river, barge operators and their customers must make plans based on the forecasted water depth at the time of the barge’s arrival at the bottleneck," Michael Toohey, CEO of Waterways Council, said in a press statement. "That is why longer-term assurance that barges can reliably load to a 9-foot draft even beyond January is absolutely critical."
According to the Council and the American Waterways Operators, Mississippi River supply chain disruptions for the month of January alone could affect more than 8,000 jobs and more than $54 million in wages and benefits -- as well as the transportation of 7.2 million tons of commodities valued at $2.8 billion.
Disruption of Mississippi River commercial traffic is already having a ripple effect across the nation’s transportation sector.
USA Today reports that 15 river barges can carry the same amount of freight as 215 rail cars or 1,050 large tractor trailers.
And Seeking Alpha says railroad companies like CSX (CSX), Kansas City Southern (KSU) and Union Pacific (UNP) are "waiting in the wings" to see how much more demand for their services will increase, as the water levels along the Mississippi continue to drop.
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We could put about a million people to work cleaning up the Carp and other invasive species in the river.
All you have to do is run a motor over the water and they will fly out onto land. Just collect them and make cat food out of them or fillet them and send them to China.
That tells me the river has been steeling a lot of rail and trucking JOBS
where has the obama administration been as this developes. Golfing, Vacationing, basicly doing absolutly nothing at all while the country bleeds to death. what a real leader. here goes more jobs, Who is going to pay for the welfare and unemployment checks in the blue states now.
No worries. If no rain.. no crops..corn soybeans etc. There will be no need to ship them. Might have the need for fuel to plant the crops but nothing needed to harvest them. Things will quietly shut down. If there's a good crop there will be rain to replenish the river too. The river will take care of itself !
This drought is far from being over !
it is really amazing to see the river at such a low level, there are many barges that are not being used and they are tied onto moorings at the waters edge, many are completely out of the water since the water has receeded. Tilted at odd surreal angles along the banks, many have been unused for months, and from the looks of things, with the continued drought, it will probably get a lot worse before it gets better.
there was rain in the forecast today, it hadn't rained in weeks, there was the expectation of some substantial rains, but when the clouds came in, the clouds produced scarcely more than a drizzle.
Millions of trees died in the heat of 2012, as well as tens of millions of fish, there is a sturdy strain of mosquito which has been proliferating since the fish died off, it is some kind of aggressive sturdy little thing, a "tiger mosquito", it doesn't just bite in the mornings and evenings like the "old" mosquito, this one feeds during daylight, and at night, and spreads a disease called the "west nile virus".
There are a lot of things happening other than just the water levels going down.
I used to remember how many lock/dams are on the river....#11 at Dubuque. Someone mentioned below about continueing the system down river.......
That may be the only way to guarentee sufficient levels. I don't know if it's possible to design barges with less draught and higher capacity.
And that sounds exactly like what we have turned the river into....a canal.
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Serious issues like drought and the deterioration of the developed world spell opportunity for this industry leader.
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