Corp Of Engineers Battling To Keep River Traffic Open

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DOWNTOWN ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) - The heat and drought are lowering river levels and that's keeping the army corps of engineers; and the coast guard busy trying to keep barge traffic moving.

So far the river's low, but not dangerously low.  

We guarantee a nine foot deep, 300 feet wide navigation channel, wider in the bends. Right now it's deeper than that obviously and a little bit wider.

But the water level is dropping, causing navigation buoys to be relocated constantly.

The buoys that we saw just up the river have moved approximately 300 feet inward from where they were at last year. That visualization just shows the amount of water that was in the river and now is lacking in the river.

The big problem as the water level drops is that the shipping channel gets narrower. As the water recedes from the banks, the river becomes smaller, the channel used by shipping becomes smaller, and it becomes more vital to keep that channel open.

We’ve identified several locations that we know we have to dredge as the river drops, and right now typically just our normal locations. We haven't seen any unusual locations. But I think once we get down to those low water levels, those things will start happening and there may be more dredging that's needed.

So far, river pilots are watching for early signs of barges hitting the river bottom.

Normally the boat will bump first, especially when they're going upstream, they're sucking all the water out from under them and the boats will bounce off the bottom.

To prevent that, river training structures, piles of rock jutting into the river, use the river's own current to deepen the channel.

It’s flowing; it's something we use to our advantage with the river training structures. We allow the rivers own energy to scour out a different riverbed bottom utilizing these structures.

Even given that, dredging operations will start around St. Louis within ten days.

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