Thu May 31, 2012
Heavy rains mean locks and dams shut on Mississippi
The Army Corps of Engineers has shut down three Mississippi River lock and dams in Minneapolis. This rare move will affect recreational and commercial boaters.
Heavy rains in the Minneapolis area over the weekend forced the Army Corps to close the lock and dams to all traffic. The high volume of water and fast currents make the Mississippi River unsafe for boaters in the area.
Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Shannon Bauer says this is highly unusual for this time of year: “Generally, the only time we have to shut them down is because of the spring melt. This has only happened three times in ten years, where we’ve had a massive amount of rain at once and had to shut the locks down in Minneapolis.”
Bauer says if the National Weather Service’s predictions hold up, the river could reopen for commercial traffic by June 8. But it could be a longer wait for people with speedboats and kayaks.
Kent Pehler, the operations officer at La Crosse barge company Brennan Marine, says anytime lock and dams close, it adds costs to the shippers. For example, he says a scrap shipper trying to get through the Minneapolis area will have to get additional trucks to move its commodities, “Stone products that go up the river that they have to get to their various quarries and terminals: they would have to look at alternate modes.”
Pehler says the recent rain on the upper Mississippi River could be good news for shippers on the lower Mississippi. He says the lack of snow this winter has caused lower water levels south of St. Louis so load restrictions have been put on barges. Pehler says the higher water levels in the north will flow downstream, helping shippers in the south.