Recent droughts have caused near-record low water levels in some areas of the river.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is dredging parts of the Lower Mississippi River to prevent problems caused by the extensive drought that has lowered the water levels through many parts of the Mississippi River.
The USACE Memphis District says it is working to ensure that the Lower Mississippi River remains open despite near-record low water levels.
“We are closely monitoring river levels and regularly communicating with the U.S. Coast Guard and the navigation industry,” says Tom Minyard, chief of engineering and construction for the USACE Memphis District. “We have a number of tools at our disposal to ensure the river stays open and useable.”
The USACE is mandated to provide a minimum navigation channel that is 9 feet deep and 300 feet wide on the lower Mississippi River. Dredging and long-term channel improvements help ensure commercial traffic is able to move up and down the river to support the country’s national and local economies.
Minyard says many permanent river “training structures” like stone dikes are now in place to provide better conditions than in previous low-water years. The dikes project out from the bank and help speed the flow of water through certain areas, causing the river to deposit less sediment in the navigation channel.
Additionally, USACE’s survey boats, working with a fleet of government and commercial dredges, are responding to any low water hot spots.
According to the USACE, record low water occurred in 1988 when the river fell to -10.7 on the Memphis gage. Current National Weather Service forecasts call for the river to reach -8.3 in Memphis by August 1, 56.3 feet lower than the highest reading during last year’s spring floods. The extended forecast calls for the river to continue to drop to -9.6 feet on the Memphis gage by August 22.
“Communication and careful coordination between all parties is essential and will help us as we move through this challenging time,” Minyard says.