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Low Waters Close 11-Mile Stretch Of Mississippi River

A tow pushes a barge past a sandbar on the Mississippi River near the confluence with the Missouri River north of St. Louis., on Friday. Many sandbars normally under water on the two rivers are now exposed as the drought has caused river levels to drop.
Jim Salter

An 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River was closed today because of low waters levels.

The AP reports:

"Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippets told The Associated Press on Monday that the stretch of river near Greenville, Miss., has been closed intermittently since Aug. 11, when a vessel ran aground.

"Tippets says that the area is currently being surveyed for dredging and that a Coast Guard boat is currently replacing eight navigation markers. He says 40 northbound vessels and 57 southbound vessels are currently stranded and waiting for passage."

As The New York Times reported earlier today, the river's levels have plummeted under record droughts. To keep the river moving, the Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging up sediment to keep the river deep enough.

The Times explains that the last time the river experienced levels this low was in 1988, when authorities were forced to halt some traffic. The Times added:

"If the weather does not improve, the situation could get much worse, said David Busse, the chief of the engineering and construction division for the St. Louis district of the corps. If the rains do not come, the river will continue to drop. There will be a precipitous fall of about two feet at St. Louis toward the end of the year, when the reservoirs up the Missouri River, as scheduled every year, stop releasing water into the Mississippi.

"'Right now we have a problem, but we're managing it,' Busse said. 'What happens when they turn it off?'"

Quoting "industry sources," Reuters reports that the river has been closed since Friday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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