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4:13 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Rains Bring Relief To Drought-Weary Mississippi

Credit (via Flickr/roberthuffstutter)

Recent rains throughout the Midwest have drastically improved the drought situation on the Mississippi River.

Lieutenant Colin Fogarty is a spokesman for the United States Coast Guard.  He says the rain is good news for the barge and shipping industry.

“Over the last 24 hours we’ve seen a rise of 2 feet, over the next 72 hours we’re going to see a rise of an additional five feet,” says Fogarty.  “That’s going to bring us up to about a 4.5 foot gage at the St. Louis Harbor.”

A 4.5 foot gage corresponds to an increase in depth of about 10 feet from last December’s record low.

Despite the relief to drought-weary river, shipping traffic isn’t flowing freely quite yet.  Ongoing work by the Army Corps of Engineers to remove rock formations from the riverbed south of St. Louis still means barges need to cue-up to move down river.

“Currently the Coast Guard has set up a system that allows vessel traffic to pass in a one-way direction between the hours of midnight and 6AM,” says Lt. Fogarty. “This will insure that industry is not inhibited while we remove the rocks.”

Likewise, months of dredging by the Army Corps has also widened the shipping channel between St. Louis and confluence of the Ohio River.

The widened channel should soon permit tow-boats to push 30 barges, instead of the current 15.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter:  @aallington