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Barge Traffic to Continue on Mississippi River
January 7, 2013

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The Mississippi River will remain open to barge traffic, but only just.

The river, which routinely sports some of the largest numbers of barge transports in the U.S., is at record low levels following the harshest drought in decades. Until very recently, water levels were so low that farmers and transport industry executives feared that some of the busiest parts of the river would have to be closed to barge traffic. Huge numbers of crops travel by barge down the Mississippi to ports along the way and to New Orleans, there to be shipped across the country and to other countries.

Workers have put in extra effort recently, shoring up the river for transport by removing much soil and many rocks from the river bottom, enabling barges to continue to go through. Rainfall and snowfall have begun to pick up in the areas around the river and its feeders, which together make for the busiest waterway in the country.

Estimates of losses from a shutdown from the Mississippi River numbered in the billions of dollars in lost revenue and thousands of work hours, at least in the short term. As it is, the very low water levels have revealed piers, rock formations, and other odds and ends not since for decades, their reality long subsumed by the river's waters.

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