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Barge Traffic Halted on Mississippi River
April 22, 2013

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The Coast Guard has suspended barge traffic on one part of the swollen Mississippi River, near Peoria, Ill., and is contemplating shipping restrictions at other points along America's major north-south waterway.

Recent heavy rains have made navigation difficult, exacerbating a problem caused in part by a prolonged drought. Near-record low water levels were enough to compel the Coast Guard to consider closing the river altogether along a particularly busy stretch from St. Louis to the Ohio River junction. As it was, a 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi near St. Louis was closed briefly so that salvage companies could corral more than 100 barges that had broken free. Eleven barges full of coal sank. In another incident farther south, near Vicksburg, Miss., a heavily laden barge had broken free of a barge tow and struck a railroad bridge.

The number of barges waiting to travel both northbound and southbound along the busy river was growing. At midday on Monday, the tally was 79.

Because of the high rainfall recently, the Coast Guard has closed several locks on the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers.

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