Low levels along Mississippi River cause headaches for businesses

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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OSCEOLA, Ark. (KAIT) - A recent drought has brought the Mississippi River to some of the lowest levels it has seen in almost ten years.

The National Weather Service said the river was briefly below -8.1 feet on Tuesday, Sept. 27,

The drought has forced companies to rethink how they ship their goods.

Cody Brown, Director of Shipping and Logistics for Big River Steel, said they have been forced to operate 15 feet below where the river usually is.

“We operate optimally at 22 feet at the Osceola marker right now we are operating at below eight or seven feet right now which is very difficult to operate around,” he said.

Brown explained they have had to get creative in the ways they ship goods, taking a toll on his staff.

“It creates a lot of time-consuming, meticulous work for our port operator,” he said.

Other businesses like Poinsett Rice and Grain are also operating at lower capacity to keep barges from hitting the bottom of the river.

“It decreases our ability to get barges and it also hampers how much we are putting on a barge we are only putting on about 60% of capacity,” said Jeff Worsham, Port Manager and Operator for Poinsett Rice and Grain.

He said a decrease in capacity also brings higher freight costs, which can slow down harvest and make difficulties for workers along the river.

Both men said if the levels continue to fall, there is a chance the river industry could put restrictions on how much can go into a barge.