Brian Kelly (@brpkelly)By Brian Kelly

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – As KMOX reported Monday morning, the bi-state area is nearing drought conditions, and that means the Mississippi River is getting low during the barge industry’s most important time of the year.

As barges are loaded with the fall harvest, the US Army Corps of Engineers is working to maintain the required 9-foot-deep by 300-foot-wide channel they need to operate.

In the St. Louis area, the corps is using one of its largest dredges. To the south, spokeswoman Amanda Kruse says they’ve stared removing rocks at Thebes, Ill.

“What’s kind of interesting about rock removal is that we actually need these low water levels so that we can get in there and remove the rock. Once these rocks are removed, that will keep the channel open even during times of low water.”

nws drought Corps of Engineers Battles Low River Levels

Courtesy: National Weather Service

It’s been a few years since they’ve been able to clear the rocks at Thebes, Kruse says.

“We actually haven’t been able to do any rock removal since 2014 because we haven’t been able to get down to these low levels. So, this is really a great opportunity for us to be able to maintain that channel and keep it open.”

While the Corps has used blasting to remove the rocks in the past, this time Kruse says they’ll be knocking them over.

“They’re going to be using kind of a backhoe to knock the rocks over, and then they’ll be able to actually pick them up, I’m thinking like a claw, and actually move them to the bank.”

And while forecasters are predicting a dry fall and winter, Kruse is confident the Corps will be able to keep the river open for business.

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