Gavins Point Dam & Lewis & Clark Lake (Corps of Engineers photo)

Low levels on the Mississippi River are leading to problems with commodity movements as barge traffic slows to a crawl. Flows from the Missouri River won’t be much help either, according to John Remus, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Office in Omaha.

“The Missouri River mainstream reservoir system does not operate to support navigation on the Mississippi River,” Remus says. “We are not authorized to do that, so we do not make any release decisions from our system for the sole purpose of benefits on the Mississippi River, whether that’s navigation or flood control.”

Remus says the Corps has minimal options for flow control on the Mississippi River.

“The Mississippi Valley Division districts have some capacity to provide some flow support, but not a lot,” Remus says, “and then the Ohio River system can supply some water for downstream of Cairo, Illinois, but in that stretch from St. Louis to Cairo, that’s really basically the Mississippi Valley Division.”

Remus says the Missouri River does, at times, provide a good portion of the flow in the Mississippi above St Louis.

“It can vary anywhere from 10% to 80% depending on the time of year and how dry or how wet it is in the Mississippi River Basin,” Remus says. “It’s going to be a tough winter for them, just from a flow situation.”

The 2022 calendar year runoff forecast for the upper basin is only 76% of average. The total system storage was 48.5 million acre feet, which is 7.6 million acre feet below the base of the flood control zone.

(Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)