Navigation Difficulties Slow Barge Traffic

This article has been reprinted from the Aug. 22 USDA Grain Transportation Report.

Total downbound barge traffic through the locking system of the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers has decreased the last three weeks. Water levels have rapidly declined since the flooding and highwater events earlier this year.

Lower water levels, aggravated by increased sediments deposited during the flood stages, cause grounding hazards. Several barges have grounded this month.

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued warnings to mariners to reduce speeds and proceed with caution along portions of the inland waterways.

USACE lock maintenance and dredging operations have also caused delays and traffic restrictions in some areas.

These navigational issues, combined with recent high barge shipping rates and a low supply of barges upriver, have decreased the number of grain barges and volume of grain transiting the locks.

The number of barges unloaded at the Port of New Orleans has remained high, suggesting increased grain shipments are arriving from elevators south of the locking portion of the river system.