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Mississippi Reaching Low Levels with Impact to Southern Ports

Posted on September 21, 2023

The low water level of the Mississippi River continues to create obstacles for farmers and shipping companies across the United States.

Workers near the Port of Vicksburg are conducting business as usual, but the scenery around them looks very different. Just a few feet away, the Mississippi River is currently in what hydrologists call a “low stage” as the water level is under five feet. A low stage is defined by the Weather Service as “low enough to be a public threat, cause impacts to commerce, or damage property.”

Pablo Diaz is the Executive Director of the Warren County Port Commission, which is based in Vicksburg. He says the Vicksburg Port is in better shape than others, but he’s not sure how long that will be the case.

“That provides a relief for a period of time because when they have to close, we do get some of those customers that you know, might have to come all the way to Vicksburg to get on a barge and then go to New Orleans or go up river,” he said. “But depending on what the water level is at some point, we could also be in the same situation.”

Those using the river to move product are paying more than they have in years, with the Associated Press reporting that the cargo rate from St. Louis southward has risen roughly 77% over the three-year average. Diaz says some partners are switching from boats to trains in Vicksburg to keep their product moving.

“If the water continues to go lower, it’s possible that then we will have more of that,” he said. Those prices are going to depend on how much demand there is… So if the water gets really, really low, where you have too many people wanting transfers and trains, those prices will reflect that.”

There is currently no significant rain in the forecast, and Diaz says he expects things to get worse before they get better.


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