Reduced Water Flow from the Missouri Threatens to Close Barge Traffic on the Mississippi

A 200-mile section of the Mississippi River may have to shut down due to reduced flow of water from reduced flow from a reservoir into the the Missouri River, which feeds into the Mississippi.  The Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to reduce flow from the reservoir.

The corps annually decreases water releases to ensure adequate reservoir levels and to prevent ice buildup and flooding. This year, already-low river levels caused by drought could shrink to the point that barges carrying grain, coal and other products won’t be able to navigate the Mississippi. The Missouri flows into the Mississippi near St. Louis.

Because of the drought, most vessels on the Mississippi are now limited to a 9-foot draft — their depth in the water.  Going to a 6-foot draft effectively closes the river.




The temporary closure of the Mississippi from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill., could result from an Army Corps of Engineers plan to reduce water flow from a reservoir into the Missouri River starting today, shipping companies and industry groups warn.

Monique Farmer, a corps spokeswoman, says water releases from the reservoir at Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will drop gradually starting November 22 from 36,000 cubic feet per second to 12,000 by Dec. 11. “We need to begin conserving water in our system,” Farmer says. It’s like turning down a faucet: Less water moves into the Missouri, which feeds the Mississippi, so Mississippi levels also drop.

The slowdown in water release threatens to delay shipment of billions of dollars worth of commodities during December and January. It is expected that the low water situation in the Mississippi will eventually result in higher consumer prices.

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