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Mississippi River Basin drought officially ends confirms USACE

End of the challenging drought in the Mississippi River basin, marking a significant turnaround in one of the nation's key waterways.

Towboat 6593436 1280 (1)
Clarence Alford | Pixabay

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mississippi Valley Division, has officially announced the end of the drought that impacted the Mississippi River basin since 2022. The low water conditions that began in September 2022 have now ceased, allowing normal operations to resume in one of America's most crucial waterways.

Brigadier General Kimberly Peeples, commanding general of the USACE, Mississippi Valley Division, confirmed that there are no longer draft restrictions on the Mississippi River. The dredges POTTER, HURLEY, and JADWIN, instrumental in maintaining navigability during the drought, have completed their operations. They remain on standby, ready to respond if necessary.

Throughout the drought, the USACE collaborated with local, state, and federal partners to mitigate the impact on both commercial and recreational industries. The drought had posed significant challenges, causing delays in goods and services to downstream ports and potentially affecting the economy.

The Corps operates the water basins in a system-wide approach, coordinating with other major Corps divisions including the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division (covering 17 states) and the Northwestern and Southwestern Divisions. The Ohio and Missouri rivers, significant contributors to the Mississippi River's water inflow, were integral to the management strategy.

The Mississippi River, spanning 4,267 miles of navigable channels, is a critical economic artery for the United States. Annually, 589 million tons of cargo are transported on the river, saving an estimated $12.5 billion in transportation costs. Protecting and maintaining this waterway is a key mission for the Corps.

During the drought, the Mississippi Valley Division successfully maintained a 9-foot navigation depth throughout the system, working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and the navigation industry to address any problem areas. Corps dredges were actively engaged and prepared to respond to emerging needs.

In June 2023, the Mississippi River faced low-water conditions again. The USACE, learning from the previous year's challenges, coordinated with industry partners to mitigate potential impacts effectively.

Brigadier General Peeples commended the collaborative efforts, stating, "Our team forecasted another low-water season for 2023. We applied the lessons learned from 2022, in continual coordination with our partners, industry, and stakeholders, to improve our resiliency from droughts across the Corps and our nation." This proactive approach and strong partnership played a crucial role in overcoming the challenges posed by the drought.

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