River draft still low
Nov 27, 2012 | 2091 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Businesses that move products on the Mississippi River continue to seek the government's help as the river approaches historic lows.

The Army Corps of Engineers on Friday began reducing the outflow from an upper Missouri River reservoir to ease drought conditions in that part of the country.

The move could mean further restrictions on barge traffic by early December, or perhaps even closure of the river from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill.

A reduced outflow means less water provided to all points south, including the Port of Rosedale.

Robert Maxwell, Port of Rosedale director, remains cautious of conditions as he has for months.

"Unfortunately, there's nothing positive to report," he said. "Reducing the outflow means levels will probably keep dropping and I hope businesses up and down the river are prepared for that."

Maxwell said most people keep trudging on with hopes of a brighter future but the river forecast remains grim.

"This experience is new for most of us having never seen the water this low before," he said. "We're going to keep working but who knows what to expect."

He remains hopeful that the port won't be shut down.

Businesses at the port have been feeling the pressure after months of light loading.

"We're going to keep loading as much as we can for as long as we can," said David Willingham, grain elevator manager at Bunge. "We're still loading light at nine foot drafts —which means we're having to send out more loads, costing us more money.

"I don't anticipate things getting better anytime soon. Hopefully it won't get any worse than what we saw in August and September.

"At this point, our direction doesn't change — we'll keep doing as much as we can," Willingham added.

Ann McCulloch, director of public affairs of the trade group The American Waterways Operators said more restrictions or traffic closure could cost businesses millions of dollars.

"This is a pending economic emergency," she said.

Companies and trade groups are asking the corps to restore the flow, and to expedite removal of rock formations in the Mississippi that impede barge traffic.

The National Weather Service River Forecast Center recorded a reading of -1 feet at Arkansas City on Monday, the closest reading to Rosedale.