Waterway commerce continues to suffer from the Drought of 2012. Lynn Muench, senior vice president of the trade group American Waterways Operators, says rigs which normally carry 45 barges are now carrying perhaps 25.
“Agricultural products and exports are huge,” Muench says, “but other things in the Midwest are also harmed: coal moving in for the heat that we’ll need this winter; things like salt for the roads, gravel, (and) mulch for the spring.”
Muench, whose group represents operators of towboats, tugboats, and barges on the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers and the Great Lakes, is based in St Louis: “At this point, over 77 percent of the water going past the Arch is coming out of the Missouri River,” she said.
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Improvements since the 1988 drought have helped: “The (Army) Corps (of Engineers), with monies appropriated from Congress … has put in more structures on the lower Mississippi, so there’s less need for dredging, and the river has effectively stayed open this whole time,” says Muench. She adds that near-daily communication among industry, the Army Corps, and the Coast Guard has kept everyone on the same page for dredging, marking, and safety.