For the past two years the barge shipping season south of Sioux City has been shortened because a long drought lowered the level of the Missouri River too far to carry cargo boats by late in the summer. Now, commercial navigation has been closed between Omaha and Kansas City because of high water levels on the Missouri River.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard decided earlier this week to close a 530-mile stretch of the river, though Coast Guard Lieutenant Clint Townsen says three "flood boats" down-river at Jefferson City, Missouri have been directed to help with emergency response.
Townsen says they used that kind of boat after Hurricane Katrina, and in several other past flood operations to help people out of houses, deliver emergency supplies, and other vital services. Townsen says the agency’s pre-determined "action plan" for dealing with high water triggered the closing of barge traffic on the river, but he says re-opening the river to navigation will depend on a team of industry representatives and federal experts.
According to the National Weather Service, sections of the river near Nebraska City, Brownville, and Rulo have already crested, and are expected to fall below flood stage by Saturday morning.