Lowered river levels could affect local consumers' pockets

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by Emily Rau / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 4:28 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – A severe drought sweeping the area could shut down barge traffic on the Mississippi River due to lowered water levels.

But despite the conditions, Mike Petersen and the rest of the Army Corps of Engineers team are trying to keep the Mississippi River safe and open for business

“It’s probably close to 12 feet lower than it should be,” said Petersen, referring to water levels.

The low water levels mean freight companies are forced to lighten loads and make more trips.

“This is a major artery for commodities like grain and coal,” said Petersen. “So if those commodities can’t move on the river, it’s a lot more expensive to transport them long distances.”

The longer distances means the extra cost could end up coming out of consumers’ pockets as the commodities prices rise.

The water levels aren’t breaking records, but the Corps calls them drastic.

This time last year, water covered the Lewis and Clark Statue at Laclede’s Landing. And as of now, there is no relief in sight.

“We do expect the river to keep dropping unless we get some rain,” said Petersen.

News 4 contacted several different barge companies and most of them said they are lightening their loads already.

At this point, the Coast Guard is not requiring that step, but it is a possibility.

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