Low Water At Memphis Sparks Concern

According to Mike Clay, chief of hydraulics at the Memphis Engineer District, river levels in the Memphis District’s area of operations (between Cairo, Ill., and Friar’s Point, Miss.) are, on average, below the “low-water reference plane,” meaning river levels are higher than that level 97 percent of the time.  “Some areas are above that; some are below.”

What’s more concerning, he said, is that the outlook for the entire basin remains extremely dry. The only rain is falling in eastern upper reaches of the Tennessee River and Ohio River, remnants of Hurricane Ian, he told The Waterways Journal. But those amounts were not expected to have a significant effect on Lower Mississippi flows, Clay said.

Matt Young, navigation chief of the Memphis Engineer District, said after a meeting of the Waterways Action Plan group—a collaboration between industry, the Memphis District and the Coast Guard—on September 29 that the Coast Guard was preparing to announce restrictions of tows to five barges wide, with drafts restricted to 9 feet, 6 inches, on October 2. He said some barge operators may already be light-loading voluntarily. 

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.