One year ago, the Mississippi River was in danger of shutting down thanks to near record-low levels that made commerce dangerous. A combination of dredging, blasting and a series of storms got the river back on track, and was actually flooding around here by early spring. The highs and lows are something the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has learned to deal with over the years, and they have plans in place for nearly every situation.
For example, the low water a year ago brought about the blasting of the river bottom near Thebes, Illinois. That, and a dredging schedule, should keep the barges flowing through the next low-water period, according to the Corps' Chief of Public Affairs Mike Petersen.
Petersen says some of the sludge pulled out of the river channel gets pumped into non-channel areas of the waterway, but in some cases sand bars are built up to either create or maintain habitat for the native species.