NGFA: Mississippi River Low Water Level Disrupts Supply Chain at Peak Harvest

According to NGFA, low water levels on the Mississippi River are impacting NGFA member companies, causing diminished barge capacity and one-way river traffic during peak harvest season.

NGFA is working with its members, stakeholder partners including the Waterways Council Inc., and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure every possible effort is made to relieve strain on the supply chain.

Barge terminals are struggling to load barges with some terminals unable to operate due to low water at docks, stalling the 2022 harvest from getting to the Gulf of Mexico for export.

To keep river traffic flowing, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging the Mississippi at several locations and placed limits on the number of barges for each tow, the U.S. Coast Guard is marking channels and operators are light-loading barges.

The Corps’ St. Louis District issued a Sept. 30 press release saying it has been monitoring low water levels along the Mississippi River, detailing several dredges.

“In addition to the Dredge Potter, we have the Dredge Jadwin from the Vicksburg District working the lower end of the Mississippi and we are using the Dredge Goetz from the St. Paul District to address the Illinois Waterway,” said Lou Dell’Orco, chief of operations.

“The St. Louis District has also utilized the Louisville District’s contract Dredge Bill Holman.”

The press release also said the water management office is monitoring conditions.

“We are currently at -0.7 feet on the St. Louis gage and are preparing the channel for -7.0 feet, although as we experienced in 2012, the fate and transport of sediment gets dicey when below -5.0,” said Joan Stemler, chief of water control operations.

“The Missouri River cutoff, which usually impacts us in late November or early December is the next point we are watching.”

As of Oct. 6, Waterways Council Inc. reported that the queue stands at 79 northbound tows with 1,488 barges and 59 southbound tows with 875 barges for a total queue of 138 tows with 2,363 barges.