Mississippi River drought now a stabilized crisis

A record-breaking drought throughout the Mississippi River basin is finally beginning to ease, reports The Gazette.

Low water levels impacted barge traffic and grain exports this fall by slowing shipments from the Midwest to the Port of New Orleans. Now, water levels are beginning to rise in the Lower Mississippi River, which extends downstream from Cairo, Ill., to the Gulf of Mexico in southeastern Louisiana.

Months of dry conditions throughout the Mississippi River basin, which drains more than 40 percent of the contiguous United States’ land mass, have led to record lows in the river’s water levels despite bouts of concentrated heavy rainfall in July that caused flooding in St. Louis and Eastern Kentucky.

In a briefing, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said they are continually dredging sediment to deepen the river channel, restricting barge loads and imposing limits on tow boats to prevent groundings. The Coast Guard is monitoring depths and continually installing safety markers for ships. Read the entire story.