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State businesses, farmers no longer have to worry about downstream Mississippi River


LA CROSSE, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin farmers and businesses that ship goods down the Mississippi River no longer have to worry about dry patches downstream.

Several storms and an extensive rock clearing effort have made the water levels rise south of St. Louis – and shippers have returned to hauling full loads.

Barge operators had reduced their loads as the river levels dropped over the last few months – and there were fears that all barge traffic could be halted.

Mike Petersen of the Army Corps of Engineers said, “Mother Nature met us halfway, and that’s what we needed.” But he said a lot of tiring physical work was also needed to handle the potential rock blockages.

The blasting and removal of rock pinnacles made the Mississippi two feet deeper at a crucial stretch in Southern Illinois. The river is now at 18 feet in St. Louis, and another two-foot rise is expected during the weekend before a gradual drop.

The Waterways Council calls the rise “good news.” But the group says Congress must still improve the river’s aging lock and dam system – or else there will be numerous failures with infrastructure.