Cold Weather May Impact U.S. Barge Logistics

This article has been reprinted from the Dec. 28 Grain Transportation Report.

Much of the central and eastern United States is experiencing extremely cold weather and sub-freezing temperatures that may form significant ice accumulations on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. 

The ice formations can restrict lock transit and narrow navigation channels. 

As a result of the freeze-up, river levels have dropped, especially at St. Louis, MO, where the river gage is forecast to drop from 2.0 feet on December 26 to -2.2 feet by January 4. 

Gage height is a measurement of river elevation the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) uses at various locations on individual rivers and refers to the number of feet above or below a reference point on the river bank. 

It does not refer to the depth of the river and varies by location. 

The Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and river representatives have formed a joint committee that places restrictions (e.g., depth of draft for barges) on river traffic when the gage at St. Louis declines to -3.5 feet. 

In the event of possible extreme low water levels, the Corps has procedures to release water from upstream dams that have the potential to increase water levels.