The Mississippi River at Vicksburg is now over 50 feet lower than it was in May of last year. While it is not a record low, the low water level is causing some minor problems for barge traffic.
The river in May of 2011 was at an all time record high of 57.1 feet on the Vicksburg gauge. In June 2012, the river is now 6.7 feet, or 50.4 feet lower than it was in 2011.
It is really dramatic when you see the heights on the flood wall at Vicksburg. The river went to zero in 1988 and had to be shut down. The lower river, this year has forced a reduction in the size of tows from around 35 barges, down to 25 and a reduction in draft from about 11 feet to nine and a half feet, which means they haul less product.
There are places where tows have to go very slow when passing. We talked with Drew Smith, hydrological engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in water control.
"With water this low at the start of our drought season, it can be affecting navigation. You know some of the ports will be hard to be accessible, we will start dredging, but the water is a concern," said Smith.
Ergon Marine, which refuels boats while they are underway, told us that the river is expected to drop much more by September. Paul Ingram, a Vicksburg architect who lives in a house overlooking the river, originally contacted us about the low river.
"The stage is just gonna continue dropping in the summer and it's gonna be problems for ports, up and down the river," said Ingram.
Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace told us the launch at the foot of Clay Street is now difficult because of low water and you can get your trailer stuck in the mud.
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