MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Mississippi River levels are far from record lows, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis forecasts levels to drop another 3 to 5 feet.
Bigger problems are being faced across the northern part of the Mississippi River Valley. Water release from Missouri dams help to raise water levels along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers when levels are low. Annually in November, Missouri reservoirs stop releasing extra water to the river. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis says November marks the end to “navigation season”.
Mike Petersen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from the St. Louis District, says, “Once the harvest is down the river, the navigation reduces. The thing that people need to understand is that each of those reservoirs is a multi-purpose reservoir. So, the water in there isn't just for navigation, but it impacts peoples’ water supply, their hydropower, plus a large recreation economy.”
Barge traffic does not end when November rolls around. Coal, steel, and oil are the biggest items that are still transported by the Mississippi River during the winter months. The stretch of river between Cairo, Illinois and St. Louis is facing possible river closures if water levels continue to drop.
In the Mid-South, no river closures are expected. If river levels along the Mississippi get too low, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can tap into two nearby reservoirs, the Barkley Dam near Nashville and the Kentucky Dam.
David Berretta, Memphis U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says, “We primarily dictate our flows from the Ohio River Basin. Hopefully we'll get some rain there to keep our stages about where they are now.”
The Vicksburg, MS district Corps of Engineers says there will be no travel problems this winter for barges navigating the waterway from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico.