The U.S. Coast Guard today re-opened to limited operations an 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River near Greenville, Miss., that had been closed intermittently since Aug.11 due to low water levels. The closing had stranded 97 vessels that had been seeking passage at that point, according to a published report.
The trade journal Maritime Executive reported today that five southbound vessels were able to pass near Greenville late Tuesday, and a limited number of northbound vessels were allowed to travel through the night into Wednesday. The affected area sees, on average, about 50 vessels pass each day, the magazine said. The closure has blocked passage for 40 northbound vessels and 57 southbound vessels.
The stretch of river has been closed intermittently since Aug. 11, when a vessel ran aground. The Coast Guard shut the segment because it was determined to be a possible site for more groundings. It is not clear when the segment will reopen, though it is currently being surveyed for dredging that will deepen its channels and improve navigation.
The historic river is suffering from a near-unprecedented drought that has affected a large swath of the Midwest this summer. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), levels along parts of the Mississippi are 30 to 50 feet lower than they were at the end of July 2011, when levels along the river and many of its tributaries were at or near record highs.
About $180 billion worth of goods move up and down the 2,530-mile Mississippi. Barges on the river carry 60 percent of the nation's grain, 22 percent of the oil and gas, and 20 percent of the coal, according to the American Waterways Operators. Bordering or cutting through 10 states, the Mississippi ranks as the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world.