Coast Guard, Army Corps work to keep crucial shipping lanes open on Mississippi despite low water

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Dry Summer weather upstream means area rivers, like the Mississippi, are running low.

“The water is low. It does appear low to the casual passerby,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Every, a Prevention Department Head with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Upper Mississippi River Sector.

“But we’re not officially in low water yet. Low water starts at about minus two on the St. Louis gauge. And right now, we’re at about plus three.”

Lt. Cmdr. Every says the Mississippi at St. Louis has been hovering just above low water for several months, but the channel from here to St. Paul is in good condition.

“We work with the Army Corps and meet with them on a routine basis. And they have ensured that the channels are dredged and everything is good for shipping,” he said.

With cargo ports backlogged on the coasts, keeping goods flowing on the Big Muddy is even more crucial.

“Every year, we see, on the conservative side, probably $43 billion worth of cargo on the Upper Mississippi River,” Every said.

The low water has exposed a piece of history. Bommarito Automotive Group SkyFOX flew over the U.S.S. Inaugural, a minesweeper that operated in the Pacific during World War II.

Relocated to St. Louis as a floating museum in 1968, Inaugural broke free and sank during the Great Flood of ’93. While it is an impressive sight, it’s not the safest decision to venture down, since the wreckage is located very near two barge fleeting areas.

“I don’t know of any other World War II ships that have sunk in this area. That’s pretty unique and I can understand why people would want to see that. But the River is unforgiving to both recreational and professional users alike,” Every said.

Some boats that do want to see you venture down are the Riverboats at the Gateway Arch. The low water hasn’t affected them.

“We’re cruising every day right now. Have our riverfront cruises going out. Still have dinner cruises on the weekend,” said Robert Hopkins, director of operations with the Gateway Arch Riverboats

But if you do come down, watch your step. The receding river has left a bit of a mess along the levee’s famous cobblestones.

“There is still some driftwood down here. So be careful of that. Obviously, the river is lower than usual so it’s at a level that the levee usually doesn’t get repaired. So, it’s a little awkward,” he said.

The Gateway Arch Riverboats are hoping that these lower river levels stick around. If the river stays low over the Winter, it could help abate the floodwaters that come with the arrival of Spring and keep them operating.

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