Louisiana river shippers worry about Midwestern drought

Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 3:39am

Barge captains running cargo up and down the Mississippi through the Midwestern corridor all have similar stories to tell these days.

"It's just slow going. The traffic that is there is just slow going. It's a narrow channel so we're having to wait hours at a time to let one way traffic through certain areas," explained Dustyn Grenon, Vice President of Operations with Blessey Marine INC.

Cargo loads have also been restricted thanks to historically low water levels, meaning less product is making its way from the Midwest to the ports of Louisiana and beyond.

"Now we have draft restrictions being placed on barges, and when you restrict the draft on barges you can haul less. And also they're making the tows smaller and daylight operations only," Mike Strain, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry explained.

And those restrictions are already starting to hurt business for companies right here in South Louisiana.

"What it does is it restricts the amount of cargo we can get off the Upper Mississippi and the Illinois rivers. The entire industry has been affected. We will normally run a two or three barge tow, and we're still able to do that, but we're just having to do that at a reduced draft now so we're not able to carry as much cargo as we normally can," Grenon continued.

For now all anyone can do is wait with fingers crossed.

"We're hoping for rain, and a mild winter up North," Grenon added.

The Army Corps of Engineers is trying several tactics to bring the water levels up, but only time will tell if those tactics will work.

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