Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rain, Snow Help River Get Rolling

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rain, Snow Help River Get Rolling

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS Barges are carrying full loads on the drought- stricken Mississippi River again after low water levels made shipping a touch-and-go proposition late last year.

Since the St. Louis river gauge at Eads Bridge approached a historic low point on New Years Day, water levels have bounced back, thanks to badly needed winter snow and rain across the Midwest. The latest round of storms to pound the region are expected to generate additional runoff.

We are pretty confident we have made it through the worst of 2012 to 2013, said Mike Petersen, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.

Then he cautioned: We have won a couple of crucial battles, but the campaign is going to continue as long as we are in a drought.

In response to unusually low water levels on the Mississippi River, shipping channels were narrowed to the point where barge tows sometimes had to wait for other tows moving in the opposite direction before continuing on their way. Barge companies lightened loads, while the industry sought additional water releases from reservoirs on the Missouri River.

The St. Louis gauge reached minus-4.57 feet on Jan. 1, officials said. That was the ninth-lowest reading on record and about 1 feet shy of the record low. Early Tuesday following heavy overnight rain in the St. Louis area the gauge read minus-0.5 feet. River levels are forecast to rise through the week.

The barge industry has resumed more normal operations.

We have been moving with full drafts the last week or 10 days, said Marty Hettel, senior manager of bulk sales at AEP River Operations in Chesterfield. Mother Nature has helped us out. We have had some good rain events.

The Corps of Engineers began dredging earlier than normal last year, and stepped up efforts to clear potential limestone obstructions from the Mississippi near Thebes, Ill. Petersen said no barges or tows have run aground in the main shipping channel.

If the Corps of Engineers confronts the similar low-water conditions during the upcoming year, Petersen said, then dredging will have to be prioritized regionally instead of locally, with the middle Mississippi River getting top priority. …

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