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Mississippi River Nearing Record Low Levels

By Daniel Cherry | Published 04 Jul 2012 07:01pm | comments
The Mississippi River is nearing the record low due to lack of rain. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how if the forecast doesn't change soon, officials could be forced to restrict traffic on one of the nation's most vital waterways.
Looking out at the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, it's impossible not to notice the massive sandbars normally covered by water.  Kavanaugh Breazeale, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says, currently, barge traffic is moving relatively well, but that could change.
"If it continues to drop a little bit, it could hinder barge traffic, and the Coast Guard at that point would issue a one lane barge traffic, where they would have to wait for each barge to pass and just use one lane at a time instead of where they could pass side-by-side."
The Vicksburg gauge is measuring the river at less than five feet. The river is still about a dozen feet from the record low, but there's still concern. Breazeale says the Corps is stepping up dredging efforts in the ports to make sure the major shipping channel can continue business.
"We are altering our normal dredging schedule to have a contractor come into the ports to start dredging, starting now for what you call preventive maintenance to make sure there's no issues with the ports."
Weather watchers aren't expecting much in the way of relief either. Marty Pope is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. Pope explains, it's not so much about rain in Mississippi, but what happens north of here.
"We're going to need significant rainfall in the Ohio River Valley as well as the Upper Mississippi River Valley to really start seeing any improvement along the Mississippi River. If not, we're going to have significant navigation issues along the Mississippi River."
The low water is a big contrast from just over a year ago when the river crested at 57 feet on the Vicksburg gauge.




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