Click the link to read the article on The Washington Post website (Scott Dance). Here’s an excerpt:
Water levels are approaching their lowest in a generation, forcing emergency dredging to keep commerce flowing
Areas of persistent and developing drought stretch across much of the Mississippi basin, which itself covers 41 percent of the contiguous United States. Though record-setting storms caused catastrophic flooding in parts of the watershed this summer, the past few months have been among the driest on record in parts of the Heartland, at a time of year when river levels are normally hitting their low points. And long-term forecasts suggest that unusually dry weather is likely to continue. At some spots, gauges reported the Mississippi’s river stages — a measure of water height normally used to evaluate flood conditions — with negative values, an indication of how far below normal levels the waters have receded…
There’s also a risk for drinking water. The relative trickle that is reaching the river’s mouth in Louisiana’s outlying Plaquemines Parish is allowing salt water to intrude up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to taint drinking water drawn from the river and requiring emergency action by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Repeatedly over the past week, water levels have become too low for barges to float, requiring the corps to halt maritime traffic on the river and dredge channels deep enough even for barges carrying lighter-than-normal loads. Days after a queue of stalled river traffic grew to more than 1,700 barges during emergency dredging near Vicksburg, Miss., a separate 24-hour dredging closure began Tuesday near Memphis. More dredging, which routinely costs billions of dollars a year, could be needed if barges continue to run aground.