Drought in the Mississippi River Valley is affecting barge traffic. While trade groups fear that river traffic could come to a halt entirely, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dredging the river and clearing 680 m3 (890 yd3) of limestone rock near Thebes, Ill., to maintain a navigable waterway. Since June, the Army Corps has dredged more than 4.6 million m3 (6 million yd3) of sediment from the Upper and Lower Mississippi. The Army Corps also recently increased releases from Carlyle Lake and will consider additional releases from other reservoirs. Keep up to date.
According to American Waterways Operators (AWO) — a trade association representing the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry — in the months of December and January alone, the Mississippi River generates $130 million in wages and supports 20,000 jobs. However, AWO estimates that every 2.5 cm (1 in) of water loss decreases barge carrying capacity by 15 megagrams (17 tons). A tow, consisting of 30 to 45 barges, would then have a decreased capacity of more than 8165 megagrams (9000 ton) — the equivalent cargo of about 130 tractor-trailer trucks or 570 rail cars.