Barge shippers can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now. The lingering drought gripping much of the nation had threatened to reduce water levels on the Mississippi River to the point that shipping would be effectively shut down. Over the weekend contractors working for the Army Corps of Engineers completed a project to deepen the shipping channel on a particularly treacherous stretch of the river south of St. Louis. Even though Corps Spokesperson Mike Peterson thinks there's reason for optimism, he says they aren't out of the woods yet:
"Historically, February, we usually do start to see some rise out of the river. But we are dealing with a drought, so we're always keeping our eye on the worst case scenario. But we're hoping for the best and definitely trying to meet nature halfway."
The US Coast Guard says recent rains and the project to deepen the river near Thebes Illinois will keep barges moving until the end of the month, but low water levels could again lead to concerns about a shipping shutdown by early February.
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