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Drought starting to impact shipping along the Mississippi River

The Drought is starting to severely impact shipping along the Mississippi River as water levels continue to drop.

The region’s shipping companies have had to lighten their loads to keep from running aground and that’s starting to cut into their bottom lines.

“The river itself is actually not as wide as before,” America’s Central Port Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer said.  “The shipping channel is not as wide as it was before. You’re see less barges tied together and less amount of product in each one of those barges.  From a shippers perspective it’s more expensive to operate in these kind of conditions.” 

Wilmsmeyer added that the extra shipping costs could ultimately be passed along to consumers.

“Less in each barge, less barges moving, smaller boats pushing those barges, really, the bottom line here is if this continues we will see higher prices,” Wilmsmeyer said

As river levels continue to drop dredging efforts will have to be stepped up to keep barges moving, Wilmsmeyer said.

The river gage is at two feet in St. Louis, but without significant rainfall it could hit zero by the end of the month.     

Levels downriver are much worse, and some barges have been at a standstill for days at a time.

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.

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