Closures Continue As Water Slowly Recedes

The “worst may be over” for Midwest flooding. That’s according to Accuweather, which said on June 13 that large storm systems are no longer moving in from the Pacific Ocean across the Midwest. But local storms and flash-flooding could still cause issues as floodwaters slowly recede across the major river systems.

Some of that “local” rainfall resulted in renewed flood warnings for parts of the upper Missouri River on June 13.

The St. Paul Engineer District reopened its locks at Lower St. Anthony Falls and Lock and Dam 1, both in Minneapolis, to recreational traffic on June 5. Those locks had been closed to recreational traffic May 24 due to high flows from the spring snowmelt. The St. Paul District currently has three dredges working in the Mississippi River to restore the navigational channel after heavy silting: the Dredge Goetz at Crats Island, near Wabasha, Minn.; a contracted mechanical dredging crew at Fisher Island, near Alma, Wis.; and a government mechanical dredging crew near Homer, Minn. The district also awarded a $4.7 million contract May 31 to LS Marine Inc., of St. Paul, Minn., to conduct dredging operations in support of channel maintenance within the Mississippi River.

The Illinois River remains totally closed to traffic from Miles 10 to 80, with a worst-case scenario that has the closure lasting until the first week of July, depending on rainfall. In addition, this summer three locks are undergoing partial closures with restrictions to prepare them for major repairs in 2020.

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The Upper Mississippi remained closed last week from Miles 33 to 109. Almost 300 barges are immobilized at two locks on the Upper Mississippi alone, according to Waterways Council Inc. Above the closure area, the Upper Mississippi is seeing some local barge movements. St. Louis harbor remains closed until June 18 or 19, depending on rainfall. Hundreds more barges are waiting along the mid-Mississippi.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 32.8 feet at Memphis by June 17, just below flood stage of 34 feet. The Mid-South and Memphis area saw heavy rains and local flash flooding June 6. Memphis International Airport broke a rainfall record set in 1905. At press time, the Mississippi River was under flood warnings near Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez.

Although Arkansas River levels are falling, it will be at least six weeks before normal barge traffic resumes, according to Bryan Day, executive director of the Port of Little Rock (Ark.) Day told local media it was the river’s dangerous currents, rather than flood gages alone, that is keeping barges off  the river. The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System has been especially hard-hit by the flooding, with new records set up and down the river and important cities partly flooded.

On the Verdigris River, which flows into the Arkansas, Lock and Dams No. 17 and 18 have resumed operations and navigation was permitted as water levels have receded, although normal traffic won’t resume until the entire waterway is opened.