The navigation season on the Missouri River will end sooner than usual this year. Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, South Dakota, will scale back water releases next week, dropping the water level below what is needed for barge traffic.
Gavins Point operations project manager Dave Becker says the navigation season usually lasts another month. Becker says: "Because of the drought on the Missouri this year, the navigation season has been cut short by 35 days. Rather than the season going up until about Thanksgiving time at Sioux City, meaning tug boats and barges could get up to Sioux City, it’ll be about October 17th."
Becker says Gavins Point Dam is releasing about 80-percent of the water it would in a more normal rainfall year. He says in order for the reduced flows to reach Sioux City on Wednesday the 17th, the dam will scale back releases on Monday the 15th. On the other side of Iowa, it’s a completely different story.
Ron Fournier, spokesman for the Rock Island District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says the Mississippi River is still very much open for business, and likely will be for a few more months. Fournier says: "Commercial navigation traffic will typically shut down around the middle of December in anticipation of the freezing river but until the river freezes, traffic basically runs year-round. It’ll start shutting down up north around Minneapolis, work its way down here to Iowa and usually it stays open down in the Missouri area." He adds, the Illinois River will stay open year-round.