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Traffic Slowly Resumes As River Stages Begin To Drop

As water levels drop, Upper Mississippi River locks are slowly reopening. By June 20, all locks in the Rock Island Engineer District were opened, according to a district spokesman, who said traffic was slow but could improve soon. The last lock to be opened was Lock 20, which opened June 18 with 12 vessels in the queue.

Further down, Lock and Dam 24–located at Clarksville, Mo. about halfway between Hannibal and St. Louis–was open, but Locks 25 through 28 remained closed as of June 20. The Mississippi River dropped below major flood stage at Alton, Ill., June 19, but was expected to remain above minor flood stage at nearby Grafton until June 28.

At press time, the St. Louis Harbor remained closed to boat and barge traffic from Miles 184 to 179. That portion of the river has been closed since the beginning of May.

At Caruthersville, Mo., flood warnings continue until July 3. On June 20, the stage was 36 feet and was expected to crest at 37.5 feet June 26. The river was expected to fall below flood stage in early July.

As water levels dropped on the Illinois River, boat club and marina owners tried to make up for a delayed start to their season by urging recreational boaters to return to the river. Starved Rock and Marseilles locks have partial closures scheduled for June 1 through July 3 and July 8 through August 16. During the partial closures, the locks will be operational from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with a 70-foot width restriction and no ability to pull unpowered barges. Full closures of both locks are scheduled for August 16 through August 30.

On June 11, the Coast Guard opened the Missouri River to navigation from Sioux City, Iowa, to Napoleon, Mo., just east of Kansas City. By press time the river was open to the mouth near St. Louis.

The Corps of Engineers has repaired three of the four worst levee breaches (out of a total of 40) in southwest Iowa. The cost to repair those breaches was estimated at $34 million, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The Corps said it would move to the repairing of two breaches in a levee near Watson, Mo., whose repair is expected to cost another $44.2 million.

The Kaskaskia River, which drains central Illinois and joins the Mississippi just below Ste. Genevieve, Mo., was still in major flood stage. It has been closed to traffic for months.

The Arkansas River, which broke many flood records this spring, will remain unsafe for navigation until mid-July, according to the Coast Guard. That’s because the Corps is releasing excess water from upstream reservoirs that it held back during the height of the floods. Flows in the Pine Bluff area are expected to exceed 150,000 cubic feet per second into early July. On June 19, Col. Robert Dixon, commander of the Little Rock Engineer District, told local media that the river was running too fast for the Corps to assess flood damage to the navigation channel, or even to determine where the channel was. Dixon said the entire length of the river will need to be dredged.

The Little Rock District and Coast Guard were notified of a sunken spud barge at Mile 73.2, located on the edge of the navigation channel and is marked with a lit flashing buoy.  The owner is reported to be making arrangements to salvage the barge, but a time has not yet been determined. A second sunken barge, reported at Mile 118.2 in Little Rock, was located on June 17.  It is located along the right descending bank, not in the navigation channel, between the shoreline and the rock training structures.

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