Low Mississippi River levels will drop even more

The executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition says water levels on the lower Mississippi River are starting to get comparable to last year as the drought persists.

“Drought conditions can impede the ability to grow crops and transport crops,” says Mike Steenhoek. “We’re seeing the evidence of that right now.”

Anna Wolverton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says the two-week outlook doesn’t have much moisture to replenish the low river levels.

“The river at St. Louis is going to fall below zero feet by the middle of the month and at Cairo, Illinois, water levels will fall to near 10 feet by the third week of July. Both levels are at points where issues start to occur on the river.”

She says navigation restrictions are already in place with barge companies enforcing a 10 – 20% reduction in tow capacity for barges and dredging is underway.

“When barges cant ship as much, the industry has to rely on trucking or rail cars to move agricultural products. Exactly 216 rail cars with six locomotives would equal one, 15-barge tow or 1,050 semi trucks.”

Steenhoek says if more rain doesn’t come, the issue could be a concern for grain shipping season in the fall.

“Obviously, anything can happen. Additional rain can happen and even looking at the trendline, it could be a problem.”

Dennis Todey with the Midwest Climate Hub tells Brownfield the risk of low river levels remains even with the help of El Nino, because any additional moisture will be absorbed in dry soils and it won’t all make it to the river.

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