Highs and lows
In May of last year, ports along the Mississippi River were dealing with record-high water. A little more than a year later, they're facing the opposite problem.
Jay Hardman, executive director of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, says deep-draft shipping through the port largely has been uninterrupted, but transfers to barges have been tricky. At what port employees call the Baton Rouge Barge Canal, north of the U.S. 190 bridge, there have been problems with tenants “having to come in light, and certainly couldn't load heavy,” Hardman says.
Low water has helped speed the overhaul of the port's grain elevator, now owned by Louis Dreyfus. Driving massive pilings is much easier without so much water in the way.
“If it was this time last year they were trying to do it, they'd be stopped dead in their tracks,” Hardman says.
At Port Allen in mid-September, the river stage only was about 4.8 feet. Not a record low, but pretty darn low. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac provided some relief, as its remnants drifted into the drought-stricken Midwest, but not much.
“Without some major storm fronts moving through and putting some water in the Mississippi River Valley, I think this [low water] will be with us for a while,” he says. “I don't ?see anything on the radar screen.”
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