27 June 2013 22:33 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--For the second time this month, rising water on the Mississippi river is hindering navigation on the vital waterway and forcing the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to begin shuttering river locks.
The levels of the river have increased so much from recent rains that water is overtopping some lock gates and thereby rendering them inoperable. The agency, which operates the river’s lock and dam system, is required to take such action and halt commercial traffic when the flow accelerates and levels of water become too high.
USACE said the closure has already taken place on three locks in the Minnesota portion of the river. It is expected that over the next few days further action will include areas of Illinois and Missouri. Depending on the weather, which is producing light showers Thursday in the midwest region, the closures could last until after the US Independence Day holiday.
Officials are optimistic that the rainfall will ease and allow the return of shipping activities as well as recreational boating. That decision will be made as soon as it is deemed safe to reopen the locks.
“Even with the last 24 hours of rain, the forecasted crest has gone down twice since yesterday so we'll keep our eye on the conditions and forecasts. We can close or reopen within about six hours since most of our flood preparation is already in place from earlier floods,” said Michael Petersen, USACE spokesman.
USACE officials said that since this was not a sudden event, such as a flash flood, it would take additional time for the waters to retreat to safe levels.
A fertilizer barge operator said Thursday the water levels were not having an impact as there was not much movement of product given the lateness of the season and that most crop nutrients were in place, if not already applied in the fields.
The most immediate impacts to commercial traffic were those who transport grain down the river from the midwest to the export terminals along the gulf. Besides being difficult to traverse the rising waters, the process of loading the barges from the elevators has been halted in some areas as the vessels could not reach the facilities. An estimated 60% of grain exports are moved down the Mississippi.
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