What a difference just a few weeks makes.
Earlier this year shippers feared that the worst drought in decades would slam the brakes on the billion dollar barge shipping industry, but recent heavy rains and snow have raised water levels on the drought starved Mississippi River.
Even though shippers are back to carrying normal loads, American Waterways Operators spokeswoman Ann McCulluh says the industry remains anxious about the future.
“You can bet that we will be watching the forecast, watching the water levels very carefully,” McCulluh said.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Peterson echoed that sentiment and said despite the good news, extended drought conditions mean river levels could drop again.
“We’re still in a drought, we’re going to expect possibly low-river levels if we don’t snowpack and precipitation over the spring and summer,” Peterson said. “So, unless we get a real healthy recharge of water in the system, we may be seeing some serious low river levels here in the fall.”
On the up side, Peterson said recently completed rock removal on a treacherous stretch of the river near Thebes, Ill. means that shippers will now have a little more breathing room should low water conditions return.
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