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Barge season might be shorten on Missouri River

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – Barge companies on the Missouri River are bracing for another lean year.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the drought and low runoff is prompting it to provide only the minimum depth necessary for navigation.

This summer, the Corps plans to cut 32 to 61 days from the shipping season. In 2004, unpredictable water levels pushed Chesterfield-based MEMCO Barge Line off the Missouri.

Now, MEMCO spokesman Mark Carr says they're worried low flows feeding into the Mississippi River could force them to scale down:

"Every time you reduce the barge capacity, you cut back on the payload. And when you start cutting back the cargo, then it hurts everybody," Carr said. "We have about a thousand employees, and it hurts all of us."

Next month, the Corps will decide whether it will implement a two-day spring rise that many Missouri farmers fear could flood their crops.