After a year of record drought, shipping on the Mississippi River could come to a halt in the next few weeks. "All the ingredients for us getting to an all-time record low are certainly in place," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist Mark Fuchs. "I would be very surprised if we didn't set a record this winter."
Projections suggest that a choke point near Thebes, Missouri, could become impassable before year’s end. Around $7 billion of commodities typically move on the river during the expected low-water period.
At current low levels, transportation has already become difficult: companies have started sending barges with lighter loads, causing more traffic, more delays, and some areas to be turned into one-way routes. Local companies that rely on the river for transporting goods are considering layoffs.
The shipping industry has asked President Obama to release more water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi. But hydrologists say that would devastate upstream agricultural states, like Nebraska, Montana, and South Dakota, which are already suffering from widespread drought.
Via The Guardian