Barge shipping on the Illinois River and north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River remains at a standstill today as flooding has forced about a dozen river locks to close following torrential rains last week, The Gazette reports.
The National Weather Service expects rivers to remain in “major flood stage” through this weekend, according to NBC News.
Most of the locks between the Quad Cities and south of Quincy, Ill., are closed, particularly locks 16 to 22, Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, told the JOC’s Mark Szakonyi.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District has also confirmed that Mississippi River locks 24 in Clarksville and 25 in Winfield, both in Missouri, as well as the lock on the Kaskaskia River in Illinois, have been closed since April 20, in anticipation of high water.
The water levels in this area are high enough that they can exceed the height of the locks and dams, forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close them, Steenhoek explained. He added that rising water levels also produce more turbulent currents, making barge transportation more dangerous.
Indeed, two separate sections of the Mississippi River were recently closed because of barge crashes:
- A 15-mile stretch along the Mississippi River near St. Louis reopened yesterday after the U.S. Coast Guard found that none of the 11 barges that sank in the channel over the weekend posed a risk to navigation. About 114 barges, primarily owned by American Commercial Lines, had broken free from a fleeting area along the shoreline of the flooded waterway.
- Meanwhile, navigation remains restricted to one-way southbound traffic near Vicksburg, Miss., where 30 barges broke away from a tow over the weekend. One of those barges sank and at least one struck a railroad bridge.
Only a few months ago, the barge industry was impacted by low water levels on the Mississippi River.
“To state the obvious, we are living in an era of extremes,” Steenhoek said. “On Jan. 1, the water level on the Mississippi River at St. Louis was 4.57 feet below the river gauge. Today, the level at St. Louis is expected to rise to 39.4 feet above the river gauge. We will therefore witness a 45 foot swing in water levels in four months.”