Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges

  1. #1
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800

    Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges

    http://news.yahoo.com/drought-threat...200224356.html


    ST. LOUIS (AP) — After months of drought, companies that ship grain and other goods down the Mississippi River are being haunted by a potential nightmare: If water levels fall too low, the nation's main inland waterway could become impassable to barges just as the harvest heads to market.

    Any closure of the river would upend the transport system that has carried American grain since before steamboats and Mark Twain. So shipping companies are scrambling to find alternative ways to move tons of corn, wheat and other crops to the Gulf Coast for shipment overseas.

    "You can't just wait until it shuts down and suddenly say, 'There's a problem,'" said Rick Calhoun, head of marine operations for Chicago-based Cargill Inc. "We're always looking at Plan B."

    The mighty Mississippi is approaching the point where it may become too shallow for barges that carry food, fuel and other commodities. If the river is closed for a lengthy period, experts say, economic losses could climb into the billions of dollars.

    It isn't just the shipping and grain industries that will feel the pinch. Grocery prices and utility bills could rise. And deliveries of everything from road-clearing rock salt for winter and fertilizer for the spring planting season could be late and in short supply.

    "The longer it lasts, the worse it gets," said Don Sweeney, associate director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "It's inevitable that it will mean higher prices down the road."

    The focus of greatest concern is a 180-mile stretch of the river between the confluences of the Missouri River near St. Louis and the Ohio River at Cairo, Ill. That's where lack of rain has squeezed the channel from its normal width of 1,000 feet or more to just a few hundred feet.

    The river depth is 15 to 20 feet less than normal, now about 13 feet deep in many places. If it dips to around 9 feet, rock pinnacles at two locations make it difficult, if not impossible, for barges to pass. Hydrologists for the National Weather Service predict the Mississippi will reach the 9-foot mark by Dec. 9.

    The situation worsened last week when the Army Corps of Engineers began reducing the outflow from an upper Missouri River dam in South Dakota, where a group of experts said Thursday that the worst U.S. drought in decades had intensified over the last week.

    The flow is gradually being cut by more than two-thirds by Dec. 11 as part of an effort to ease the effects of the drought in the northern Missouri River basin.

    Lawmakers from Mississippi River states are frustrated with the corps' action and even requested a presidential emergency declaration to overturn it. So far, the White House has not responded.

    On Thursday, Army Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy told Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and some of his colleagues from Iowa and Minnesota that the corps would consider cutting the amount of water held back from the Mississippi.

    Darcy also pledged to expedite removal of rock formations south of St. Louis, though that work would take at least two months after a contractor is hired.

    To Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, the stakes couldn't be higher.

    "There is going to be a dramatic ripple effect to our economy if the barge traffic grinds to halt, which clearly it will if something is not done to avert this crisis," she said.

    Her Missouri colleague in the Senate, Republican Roy Blunt, acknowledged "friction" between upper Missouri River interests that control the flow and those downstream on the lower Missouri and Mississippi rivers. He said the corps "needs to manage that balance."

    Over the years, parts of the river have occasionally been closed because of low water, barge accidents, dredging, ice and flooding. But this shutdown, if it happens, would affect a pivotal stretch that is used for heavy two-way traffic — shipments going south to the Gulf as well as transports from the Illinois and Ohio rivers headed north to Chicago and Minneapolis.

    A two-month shutdown — the length of time that some observers fear given current conditions — would have an estimated impact of $7 billion, according to the river industry trade group American Waterways Operators.

    Consider agricultural products. It costs 30 to 35 cents more per bushel to send grain to the Gulf by rail instead of barge — a massive figure when calculating the millions of bushels shipped downriver.

    "When you think of all we buy at the grocery store that has grain and corn, consumers could really see it hit them in the pocketbooks," said Ann McCulloch of the Waterways Operators group.

    The Coast Guard controls navigation on the river and decides when to require restrictions or shut it down.

    "It's really played by ear," Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said. "The Mississippi River is a dynamic environment."

    River shippers are bracing for the worst, weighing train and truck alternatives to move a staggering volume of cargo, if necessary.

    Seven million tons of farm products are shipped via barge in a typical December-January period, along with 3.8 million tons of coal, 1.7 million tons of chemical products, 1.3 million tons of petroleum products and 700,000 tons of crude oil, McCulloch said.

    Trains already haul a vast volume of material, but switching from river to rail isn't that easy, especially on short notice. Cargill, for example, uses 1,300 of its own barges on inland waterways. Finding that much capacity elsewhere is no simple task.

    "We'll look for other sources of transportation to the extent we can. But if you take away this important artery, you can't just snap your fingers and replace it with trains," Calhoun said. "There aren't just trains sitting around. They're already pretty busy with their business on their books."

    Tractor-trailers can pick up some of the slack. But some cargo, such as coal, just isn't cost-effective to haul by truck over long distances, said Bob Costello, an economist with the American Trucking Associations.

    Businesses operating directly on the river are bound to suffer, too.

    George Foster founded JB Marine Service Inc. in St. Louis 36 years ago to make a living fixing and cleaning barges. An extended river closure may force layoffs, he said. He figures many other companies will be forced to cut jobs, too.

    "It's extremely dire," Foster said. "There's no way to sugarcoat it."

  2. #2
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800

    Cargo Continues Moving on the Mississippi River, but Perhaps Not for Long

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/us...iver.html?_r=0


    This article was published before the snowstorms of last week

    Cargo Continues Moving on the Mississippi River, but Perhaps Not for Long

    By JOHN SCHWARTZ

    Published: December 23, 2012



    The Mississippi River is still open for business — for now. January is another story.

    A Midwestern drought has brought the river, one of the world’s largest navigable inland waterways, to water levels so low that they threaten to shut down shipping. The Mississippi, which handles some $7 billion in trade in a typical December and January, is expected to be closed to navigation between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., when water levels dip toward the nine feet of depth that is necessary for most tugboats to clear the river bottom.

    Those who ship goods up and down the river have asked the federal government to do two things: destroy rock formations known as pinnacles in Southern Illinois that hinder navigation when the water is shallow, and release more water from reservoirs along the upper Missouri River.

    The Army Corps of Engineers has begun meeting the first request, using excavating equipment to break down the formations. Officials said the work should take 30 to 45 days.

    Getting the corps to release the water has been more difficult. The corps has rejected requests for large-scale water releases from the upper Missouri, saying it does not have the authority to use that water to aid navigation on the Mississippi.

    Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, applauded that decision and called it “unlawful” to release water that states like South Dakota need and use. He said that his region, too, has suffered “significant negative impact” because of the drought.

    The Waterways Council, a group that lobbies on behalf of inland carriers, operators and ports, had initially warned that traffic would come to a halt by Monday. But so far, the water levels have dropped more slowly than expected, in part because of small water releases by the corps. A coalition of businesses involved in trade along the Mississippi and sympathetic lawmakers have asked President Obama to order the water released.

    “It would cripple our national economy to shut down the Mississippi River,” said R. D. James, a Missouri farmer and a member of the Mississippi River Commission, which manages uses of the river with the corps.

    But without action from the president, Congress or the courts, the water will stay behind the reservoirs of the upper Missouri.

    “When they get a little water in those reservoirs,” Mr. James said, “they don’t want to give it up.”

    It could soon be too late to prevent a partial closing. Water takes two weeks to make its way from the upper Missouri River reservoirs, and predictions released by the corps over the weekend suggest that without substantial rainfall, the water levels could dip below nine feet by Jan. 11.

    With the threat of a shutdown ahead, farmers might decide to hold their grain instead of shipping it in a more expensive manner, said Gregory L. Guenther, a farmer and corporate consultant. Since farmers tend to pay for the coming year’s supplies like fertilizer with those sales, they will have to borrow instead, and “that means paying interest on it.”

    Transporting goods by rail is a less attractive option, Mr. Guenther said, because shipping and storage facilities that use the river are not necessarily near rail lines, and rail capacity is limited. Altogether, shifting transportation modes would drive up prices, he said, adding, “Rail is not the answer.”

    Rick Calhoun, the president of Cargo Carriers, a part of Cargill, noted that carriers were already loading barges to a lighter weight to deal with the water depth, which also ends up raising costs.

    “We put less product in the barge, it takes longer to get there, and we use more fuel per barge,” Mr. Calhoun said, adding, “We’re going to be running into very difficult issues.”

    Col. Christopher G. Hall, the commander of the St. Louis district of the corps, said, “We’re doing everything that we possibly can to keep that channel at the authorized depth so that they can continue to operate.”

    Intense dredging, tweaks and luck have helped push the crisis “to the right” on the calendar, Colonel Hall said, but it is unclear how long that will last.

    The low water conditions could persist into the spring, when it generally rains more.

    Steven L. Stockton, the director of civil works for the corps, said, “The only long-term solution is more rain.”


    This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

    Correction: December 23, 2012



    A picture caption with an earlier version of this article misidentified a piece of equipment removing chunks of limestone from a navigation channel on the Mississippi River. It is an excavator, not a backhoe. The error was repeated in a Web summary.



  3. #3
    Hall Of Fame
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    20,307
    I blame those evil capitalists and House Republicans.

  4. #4
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800
    Quote Originally Posted by DDNYjets View Post
    I blame those evil capitalists and House Republicans.
    I understand blame is where it is at for you.

    I'm thinking more in terms of solutions.

  5. #5
    Jets Insider VIP
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    New York, NY
    Posts
    13,565
    Quote Originally Posted by Buster View Post
    I understand blame is where it is at for you.

    I'm thinking more in terms of solutions.
    As you clearly stated. How about we melt the polar ice caps and fill up the old Mississippi with it?

  6. #6
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800
    Quote Originally Posted by JetPotato View Post
    As you clearly stated. How about we melt the polar ice caps and fill up the old Mississippi with it?
    The polar ice caps are melting as we speak (well the southern one). And frozen fresh water melts into the harder to use salt water of our oceans.

    The long game is to capture more fresh water in newly constructed reservoirs.

    The short game is to hope for rain and truck the goods to market. And if for economic reasons our farmers choose to sit on their harvest then we offer an incentive for them to truck their goods.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Buster View Post
    I'm thinking more in terms of solutions.
    Really?

    Can you point out where you have been posting them? Cause all I see are articles about possible, maybe, could-happen problems, which you yourself do not comment on.

    Not solutions.

    Maybe if you post another 14 threads, instead of you know, one threa/one topic, that will solve the problem.

  8. #8
    Mississippi Basis is drier than usual.
    Within the past month - 30 inches of rain in Northern California.

    I recall severe flloding in the Mississippi Basin not long ago.

    Weather patterns change back and forth. It's been like that for ever.

    Panic at every little change is a waste of time. That's why Libs are alarmed. They like to waste time.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Buster View Post
    I understand blame is where it is at for you.

    I'm thinking more in terms of solutions.
    How about tearing all the dams and levies down that cut the flow. I'm willing to pay more for food and if we have a real food shortage we can hopefully reduce the population which will reduce global warming.

  10. #10
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800
    Quote Originally Posted by Warfish View Post
    Really?

    Can you point out where you have been posting them? Cause all I see are articles about possible, maybe, could-happen problems, which you yourself do not comment on.

    Not solutions.

    Maybe if you post another 14 threads, instead of you know, one threa/one topic, that will solve the problem.
    I made a suggestion in post 6 of this thread.

    And I also started the following thread a couple of weeks ago.

    http://www.jetsinsider.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=251540

  11. #11
    Maybe the Mississippi is drying up because people are using the water up stream? Maybe that's why the Colorado river doesn't flow all the way down to where it once flowed to?

    Maybe we use our resources and as populations grow we use more of them and drought, a normal occurence combined with our usage is creating changing landscapes?

    Lets see those who are for ending the use of carbon suggest we blow up all the dams and locks that have been built and stop using our rivers for farming, transportation and fresh water.

    We will adapt, move on and die. The earth will renew itself once we move on. Enjoy the ride and don't forget to re-use and recycle.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Winstonbiggs View Post
    How about tearing all the dams and levies down that cut the flow. I'm willing to pay more for food and if we have a real food shortage we can hopefully reduce the population which will reduce global warming.
    American already has good policies and organisations in place to reduce the population, chief of them being the National Rifle Association.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Soberphobia View Post
    American already has good policies and organisations in place to reduce the population, chief of them being the National Rifle Association.
    Unfortunately there aren't enough nuts and although most gun owners like none gun owners are generally irresponsible part of the time they aren't killing people at nearly a fast enough clip to make a difference. We are going to have to arm more people with bigger clips in order to do the job. A few shootings a day just isn't enough.

    Personally I'm hopeful that a pandemic will take care of most of these issues.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Winstonbiggs View Post
    Unfortunately there aren't enough nuts and although most gun owners like none gun owners are generally irresponsible part of the time they aren't killing people at nearly a fast enough clip to make a difference. We are going to have to arm more people with bigger clips in order to do the job. A few shootings a day just isn't enough.

    Personally I'm hopeful that a pandemic will take care of most of these issues.
    Yeah, a pandemic will do it, or maybe an asteroid or alien invasion (both of which would unfortunately throw up some alternate environmental issues)....there is hope maybe a godzilla type creature is gathering its strength in the wake of the Japanese tsunami and nuclear reactor/s disaster? And about to arise from the Pacific and stomp its way across the hugely populuous Asia?

    As you say, the NRA really is falling down on the job at the moment and someone or something will just have to step up to the plate given this gross lack of negligence by them in relation to the exploding human population. If this is their best it just isn't good enough I'm afraid.

  15. #15
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800

    Drought threatens to halt critical barge traffic on Mississippi

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation...46f_story.html


    Drought threatens to halt critical barge traffic on Mississippi

    By Darryl Fears,

    Published: January 6




    On a stretch of the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard has been reduced to playing traffic cop.

    For eight hours a day, shipping is allowed to move one way in the 180 miles of river between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., depending on the hour. For the other 16 hours, boats go nowhere, because the river is closed to traffic.

    The mighty Mississippi, parched by the historic summer drought, is on the verge of reaching a new low. That could mean that tugboats hauling barges loaded with billions of dollars’ worth of cargo — enough to fill half a million 18-wheelers — would not be able to make their way up and down the river.

    Through the night, contractors for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remove rocks from a stretch near Thebes, Ill., that threaten to cut boats to shreds. The corps has assured state officials, farmers and coal barons who rely on the shipping that it can maintain the nine-foot level it says makes navigation safe.

    But those who rely on the river say they are worried nevertheless.

    As of Friday, National Weather Service hydrologists forecast that the river near Thebes could drop below a point that would allow barges to safely navigate with heavy cargo, forcing the Coast Guard to restrict weight and effectively shutting down commerce late this week, according to reports by the Associated Press.

    But the Army Corps and Coast Guard assured state officials that the Mississippi will remain open. Recent rains and water releases from the corps’ Carlyle Lake in Illinois improved water levels for the Middle Mississippi River, the corps said.

    “There’s nothing pretty about this,” Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said Friday. “We are facing a historic drought. River levels are at record lows we haven’t seen since 1941. Over six weeks the Army Corps has dredged record amounts of the river.”

    But, Fogarty said, reports that the Mississippi will close are as reliable as doomsday projections “based on the Mayan calendar.” Tamara Nelson, senior director of commodities for the Illinois Farm Bureau, has faith in the corps, but is worried by the long dry spell.

    “Not being able to move anything on that river will be critical, a big hit,” she said. “It affects tax revenues for the federal government, it affects jobs.

    “I don’t think you can really exaggerate the level it has fallen to,” Nelson said. “I’ve been here 15 years in Illinois, worked in agriculture almost 30 . . . and to see what is typically a bank-to-bank Mississippi full of water . . . now become almost hillsides of sand is like watching a lake empty.”

    Iowa, Missouri and Louisiana are also heavily dependent on the Mississippi. In 2010, the Port of Metropolitan St. Louis shipped and received more than 30 million tons of cargo worth about $7.5 billion, making it the nation’s third-busiest inland port, according to the Waterways Council Inc.

    During a typical January,
    $2.8 billion worth of goods flows between St. Louis and Cairo:
    5 million to 7 million tons of grain for cattle feed, coal for power plants and cement for construction, according to Illinois officials.


  16. #16
    To show just how much warming is impacting the Mississippi we have to go all the way back to 2011.


    http://www.nola.com/environment/inde...ns_to_div.html

    Published: Saturday, May 14, 2011, 3:00 PM Updated: Saturday, May 14, 2011, 6:02 PM

    In a historic action designed to minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers has begun opening the Morganza Floodway to divert water from the rain-swollen Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya basin.


    The second-ever opening of the nearly 60-year-old structure 186 miles upriver of New Orleans began at 3 p.m. sharp, when a crane lifted a gate covering one of the spillway structure’s 125 bays, releasing a gusher of about 10,000 cubic feet of water per second into the floodway. A live video feed of the procedure is being streamed online by the corps.

  17. #17
    All League
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    East of the Jordan, West of the Rock of Gibraltar
    Posts
    4,800

    Keeping the Boats Moving Along a Mississippi Dwindled by Drought

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/18/us...ught.html?_r=0



    Keeping the Boats Moving Along a Mississippi Dwindled by Drought

    ST. LOUIS — For months along the Mississippi River here, the withering drought has caused record-breaking low water levels that have threatened to shut down traffic on the world’s largest navigable inland waterway.


    That closing has not happened, however — and now officials are predicting it will not. “It looks to me like we’re about to get out of the woods here,” said Maj. Gen. John W. Peabody, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. “I am very confident that we will be able to sustain navigation for the rest of the season,” until the river comes up naturally with the spring rains and snow melt.

    The fact that the river has remained open for business along the critical “Middle Miss” — the 200 miles between the Mississippi’s last dam-and-locks structure, above St. Louis, down to Cairo, Ill., where the plentiful Ohio River flows in — stems from a remarkable feat of engineering that involved months of nonstop dredging, blasting and scraping away of rock obstructions along the riverbed, effectively lowering the bottom of the channel by two feet. It has also involved exacting use of reservoirs along the vast river system that were initially designed by engineers using slide rules nearly 100 years ago to try to manage both flood and drought, as well as rock structures placed in recent years along the bank to direct water and speed it up, a bit like a thumb over the end of a garden hose.

    During the most delicate weeks of the low-water crisis, the corps ordered its engineers and water managers to tweak upstream reservoirs, with some staff members waking up every two hours through the night to check river levels and to release precise amounts of water as needed, without wasting a drop.

    “This is a game of inches,” said David R. Busse, the chief of the engineering and construction division for the St. Louis district of the corps — and in this case, the tired sports metaphor is literally true.

    The effort has allowed the corps to maintain the river’s 300-foot-wide navigation channel at a depth of at least nine feet. While that is no deeper than many swimming pools, it is just enough to keep tow boats and their barges afloat, though loaded more lightly than the shippers wish.

    The shipping industries, fearful that the drought could cause an unprecedented extended shutdown, had in recent months called for the engineering corps to release even larger amounts of water from reservoirs along the upper Missouri River, which provides nearly half of the water flowing past St. Louis. They also urged the administration to speed work on removing the rock obstructions, which was not likely to begin, without a strong push, until February or later. They took the fight all the way to the White House, and worked with powerful lawmakers including Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

    Mr. Durbin worked closely with White House officials like Pete Rouse, counselor to the president and a former Durbin chief of staff. He, along with like-minded lawmakers, urged the administration to speed the work on the rocks, and to keep the option of using the Missouri open.

    But Mr. Durbin acknowledged that “if we have to face the Missouri River option, it’s going to be very contentious.” Such a move would inevitably set off lawsuits from states that benefit from the Missouri’s waters, arguing that the administration was violating the laws governing federally mandated uses of the Missouri.

    In December, President Obama entered the discussion in a staff meeting, when he asked, according to Mr. Durbin, “Are we moving and doing everything we should?” Soon after, barges with underwater jackhammers, excavators and blasting equipment were working the river near the small town of Thebes, Ill., breaking the rock and scooping it away.

    As for the Missouri River, a White House official said all options remained on the table, but the administration decided to rely on the advice of its engineers, who argued that a nine-foot draft (plus one foot of water to flow under the vessels) could be maintained without tapping the other river.

    Despite the success in keeping the Mississippi open, the effects of the low water can be seen up and down the river, both in reduced barge traffic and in the disarray caused by receding waters. At the offices of JB Marine Service in St. Louis the other day, the company’s president, George Foster, listed to one side as he walked down the hall toward his office. The offices are on a barge that has floated in the river since 1976, but which is on dry land today. Now the floors are pitched at a 7.3-degree angle, and picture frames have shifted to a crazy angle that brings a carnival fun house to mind.

    Mr. Foster does not like the comparison, growling, “It’s not fun anymore.” The grounding of his offices forced JB Marine to move into trailers. “I have been in this industry for 48 years, and I have not seen it this bad,” he said.

    Even with the river remaining open, the companies that normally ship billions of dollars in goods up and down the waters each month have suffered, said Debra Colbert, a spokeswoman for the Waterways Council, a group that lobbies on behalf of inland carriers, operators and ports. Assurances from the corps that the river will be open through the spring are welcome, she said, “but the uncertainty about whether the water would be there when shippers arrived had been ongoing since early November, and economic damage was done as a result.”

    Many shippers withheld barge runs out of fear that they would launch a shipment that, during its weeks upon the river, could get stalled by a closing. The light loads and smaller clusters of barges being pushed by tows mean that moving goods on the river became more expensive. “Just like the channel itself, shippers, operators and the U.S. economy got squeezed in this crisis,” Ms. Colbert said.

    While the immediate crisis appears to have passed, General Peabody of the corps warned that cycles of drought could last for years, as the Dust Bowl showed, and that there are no guarantees when it comes to rivers. “We’ll continue to respond to what nature throws at us,” he said. But, he added, “There’s nothing that man can do that nature can’t overcome.”


    A version of this article appeared in print on January 18, 2013, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Keeping the Boats Moving Along a Mississippi Dwindled by Drought.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Follow Us