ST. LOUIS – Cross a bridge over the Mississippi River, and you can’t help but notice how low it is right now. At downtown St. Louis on Friday, the river level was at -2.5 feet, very low, but not a record that was set in January 1940 at -6.2 feet.

The lack of rain is the cause, and steps have to be taken to keep the river open to barge traffic. The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, St. Louis District, reports no restrictions in the navigation channel north of Cairo, Illinois. They are maintaining it thanks to dredging.

“The crew of the [Dredge] Potter, they are out there full time making sure things are moving. They are the ones making it happen,” explains Lou Dell’Orco, chief of operations with the St. Louis District Corps of Engineers. “It’s especially critical now as we have to be enable water born transit of commerce down the river to New Orleans in support of the nation’s economy.”

The corps is also bringing in dredges from other districts to help. They partner with the U.S. Coast Guard, who sets the navigational buoys and the river industry itself, which is the first to see trouble spots and report them.

“They provide us with real time information, going through sites and notifying us in advance of areas of concern where we can get out there and address the issue before it turns into a channel closure,” Dell’Orco said.