Flooding on the Mississippi River delays shipping season, key commodities

May 18, 2019 10:20 PM

On the Mississippi River in St. Paul, half a dozen fully-loaded barges are parked near a shipping terminal, but they don't appear to be headed anywhere anytime soon.

Historic flooding has left parts of the Mississippi River closed for business.


That means towboats and barges, along with other commercial boats can't come in or go out of the Twin Cities metro.
The river is a main conduit for shipping everything from agriculture products and construction material to petroleum and coal. Flooding has also affected shipping on the Missouri River and other waterways that feed into the Mississippi.
Patrick Moes with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the spring flooding created a difficult imbalance that only Mother Nature can reset: the river needs enough water to open the channel, but too much will close key locks and dams.

"What we're seeing is truly historic," Moes said. "Our first tow reached St. Paul on April 24. We haven't seen one since then."

RELATED: Mississippi River flooding in St. Paul sets record

The shipping woes come at a time when farmers would normally be sending soybeans, corn and other grain from more than a dozen states in the Mississippi River basin down the river. Further, fertilizer shipments that normally travels up the river to communities from St. Louis to St. Paul, Minnesota, still haven't made it through.

"It is causing strain on the industry," Moes said. "It's going to be a tough spring and a tough summer for navigation."

Weather in the coming weeks could also create more problems, according to Moes. More rain could force more closures, which would push back shipments even more.

Margery A.Beck/Associated Press contributed to this story

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Kirsten Swanson

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