Fed By Snowmelt, High Water Closes Upper Mississippi Locks

High water closed most of the Upper Mississippi River to commercial traffic as 33 river gauges from the Twin Cities through Burlington, Iowa, showed “major flooding,” according to the National Weather Service. Another 32 gauges from Keokuk, Iowa, south though Winfield Lock and Dam 25 showed moderate flooding.

American Commercial Barge Line said it had no boats engaged on the Upper Mississippi above St. Louis due to flooding conditions and lock closures. The St. Paul Engineer District closed several Mississippi River locks and dams to all commercial and recreational traffic beginning April 23. All closures were expected to last from a week to 10 days. Most of the locks and dams above Quincy, Ill., were closed.

As of April 25, the Rock Island Engineer District closed Lock and Dam 11 at Dubuque, Iowa, as well as Lock and Dam 12 and Lock and Dam 13, with a closure of Lock and Dam 14 to closely follow. Lock and Dam 16 at Illinois City, Ill., was also closed.  The closures were expected to last a week to 10 days.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said in an email, “Closures of these locks [between St. Paul, Minn., and Quincy, Ill.,] will obviously impede the delivery of any remaining soybeans or grain for the export market, but lock closures during this time of the year will particularly impact northbound fertilizer shipments.”

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In an April 27 press conference, Mike Welvaert of the National Weather Service’s North Central River Forecast Center said the main cause of this flood event was the rapid snowmelt from the northern part of the region, plus several large rain events in the early part of April. Most of this season’s snow cover was in an area north of the Minnesota-Iowa border, he said.

The crest passed through Guttenberg, Iowa, that day, and crests were expected to continue downstream for the next several days, adding about a foot and a half to current river levels at the Quad Cities, Welvaert said.

Below Burlington, Iowa, the crests weren’t expected to reach major flood levels, and in St. Louis, the crest probably won’t reach flood stage, in part because below Minnesota and Iowa, tributaries to the Mississippi aren’t expected to contribute to the flooding, he said.

Some information for this story was contributed by John Shoulberg.