Mississippi River levels remain low, trade disruptions could occur

A climatologist says water levels remain low on the Mississippi River and the situation could worsen this fall.

Dennis Todey, Director of the USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub, says conditions are slightly better than last year. “There has been enough rainfall to keep the river from being critically bad, but this is the low-flow time of year,” he said. “We’re probably going to continue touching this along the way.”

According to the National Weather Service, the water levels at Memphis and St. Louis are approximately 3-to-5 feet above zero gauge but are expected to drop below zero gauge by the end of the month.

Todey says the lower levels could cause some agricultural trade disruptions. “If you don’t have the Mississippi to move (goods), you stop moving things or you find rail or other ways to move that,” he said. “It does disrupt the situation with transportation of crop out and fertilizer and other things back in.”

But, he tells Brownfield some models point to increased chances of precipitation. “El Nino should help us out that way,” Todey said. “It may not be able to fix it overnight, but I’m optimistic we’ll be able to at least keep things rolling there.”

Todey says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting dredging operations to help maintain a navigable channel.

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